Joseph’s Cradle is a heartwarming book with a strong and beautiful message.
It is inspired by a true story and demonstrates how cohesive a community of people can be. The cultural highlight of this text is the illustrative references to life in a small African village. The illustrations beautifully depict livestock, rolling hills, small village huts and crops growing on the outskirts of the village. While reading this book, I appreciated the vast differences between this culture and British culture; in some ways, it was a breath of fresh air.
Originally there was a large fruit tree that stood, tall and proud, in the centre of the village. Many years later, this special tree was felled by a storm. Instead of mourning the loss of the tree, the villagers worked together to chop the tree up, into firewood. However, ‘Joseph chose to take away a solid piece of its trunk.’ Out of the trunk, he carefully curved a cradle. The pattern across the headrest was that of the special tree. The crib was passed down through many generations, for newborn babies, to sleep in, until they outgrew it. It became a tradition, within the village.
I would recommend this book as it lends itself to discussions about the different values that we place on things and how this might vary in different cultural contexts. It will open children’s eyes to the fact that there are other completely different ways of living. This book can also reflect hope – the storm destroyed the tree, but what was made from the tree, was even more special.
Joseph’s Cradle would be ideal for a reading session, that evolved into a class discussion and also as a guided reading text, to examine key themes, cultures, messages and morals that this book highlights.
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