Wednesday 27 February 2013

Children's Book Review : Made On Earth - Wolfgang Korn

There has been a recent push to make kids aware of where their food comes from, getting them hands-on experience in a school vegetable patch, visiting farms and recognising and tasting fresh fruit and vegetables. But how much do they - or even the grown-ups - actually think about all those other things that we use on a daily basis?

Made On Earth is the fictionalised tale of a humble red fleece, bought for a handful of euros by the German author, Wolfgang Korn. He starts by looking at where the raw materials (crude oil) come from (Dubai), how they came into existence and how they are used. He follows the manufacturing process from crude oil to fleece, looks at how the material is transported half way across the world to Bangladesh to be made into garments then shipped across to Europe where it is bought, worn, stained and recycled in a charity clothing bin. Recycling is the start of a whole new journey, with the fleece being sent to Africa, ending up being worn by a refugee drifting hopelessly across the sea in a dangerous attempt to get a new life. 

As the blurb on the back of the book explains, "This is not just a story about manufacturing. This is a story about people, their livelihoods and their life expectations. This is the story of globalisation." The red fleece becomes intrinsically linked into different people's destinies, from the lonely workers on the container ships to the badly exploited Bangladeshi seamstresses, terrified factory workers being beaten in police cells for campaigning for a far wage and terrified illegal immigrants. The narrative explores the living and working conditions of a wide range of different populations across the globe and will really make pre-teens and teens think about how lucky they are to live in relative wealth.

The book explains how and why products are shipped across the world rather than being made locally and what we can and should do to help everyone get a fairer deal. It's informative but also entertaining, introducing some complex notions in a simple, child-friendly way. There is a handy glossary at the back to explain big words or complex notions that young readers may have heard on the news without really understanding them.

Even as an adult, I found it fascinating and it really made me think about some things that I'd never even considered before. The only thing that is a slight shame is that it is translated from German so it uses German towns as points of comparison from time to time. The translator has added UK equivalents for some of them, but I think it would bring it closer to home from young UK-readers if everything related to British placenames and points of reference. But that's probably quite apt for a book about globalisation !

It's a very interesting book and one that will surely lead to many discussions about globalisation and the world we live in, either at home or in the classroom.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: A&C Black Childrens & Educational (3 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408173913
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408173916
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.6 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

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