I can finally recommend something related to the Three Cups of Tea story.
Remember how I hated listening to the audiobook of Three Cups of Tea, which felt like a journalistic report despite being called a memoir? My mother loved Three Cups of Tea and thought it was wonderful, so I enlisted her help in writing my post for Rebecca Reads: I shared a Counterpoint post, with each of us writing our thoughts of the book.
Long story short: The issue of my “hating” Three Cups of Tea was revived last week by someone who wasn’t so happy with my very scathing review. Hate, apparently, is too strong a word, considering Greg Mortenson is in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize. (FYI, apparently more than 100 people are nominated each year.) Despite that, I still thought that the character described in the book is not a likeable person: he’s a bit too flighty for me to trust with my money. Besides, the book dragged along with horribly unnecessary details. I had to reiterate to my visitor that I have no intention of rereading Three Cups of Tea, but if the story were completely rewritten I may revisit the issue. (I said, “If Greg’s story is rewritten by a different author in a completely revamped structure, I may consider revisiting it.”)
Well, it has been rewritten. Twice.
Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth is a children’s picture book, told from the perspective of the children of Korphe.
First the children tell us a bit about their life:
We make our own games, and we make our own toys.
Then they tell us that before their school was built, they had lessons outside.
We wrote with sticks, on the ground.
Then they tell how a stranger stumbled in to their village, cold, hungry, and sick. They helped him get better and, because he was trained as a nurse, he helped the sick people of Korphe get better.
For those of you who know the story of Three Cups of Tea, you’ll know that “Dr. Greg,” as he was known, asked Haji Ali how he could help the people of Korphe. Haji Ali told him to “listen to the wind,” and Greg decided that what he needed to do most was build a school for the children of Korphe. Of course, he then returns to Korphe a year later and the people of the village all help him build a bridge and a school.
The story is perfectly put together. There are no extraneous details: no tales of Greg sleeping in his car, no horribly boring details about Greg’s girlfriend dumping him, no details that show that Greg is horribly foolish. The fact that he arrives with supplies for the school before recalling the need to make a bridge becomes part of the story – not an annoying “duh! Didn’t you know better?!” moment, as it felt in Three Cups of Tea.
In the end, I loved the story because of the children of Korphe, which is what I thought Three Cups of Tea should have been about in the beginning. The person of Greg Mortenson was not all that interesting to me: the children who went to school on the ground should always have been the theme.
The illustrations are collages, which I personally liked but may be an acquired taste. In the afterward, the illustrator clarifies that, since the art (for example, the hats) of Korphe uses recycled goods from the West (such as broken zippers and stray computer chips), she used recycled papers for her pages too.
I disliked one thing about the book, and that was the supernatural “Listen to the Wind” theme. It was a bit odd. The book ends with “We are the children of Korphe. Can you hear our voices? Listen to the wind…” It just felt like a weird ending.
The afterward provides photographs and further details about Korphe and Three Cups of Tea, ending with this statement:
A penny in the United States doesn’t even buy a piece of gum, but in Pakistan and Afghanistan, one penny buys a pencil, and one dollar funds one child’s education for a whole month.
That gives me chills. I now want to donate to the cause, something that Three Cups of Tea completely turned me off to.
To fund one child’s education for a whole month for just $1, visit http://www.penniesforpeace.org.
I highly recommend Listen to the Wind. If you could not get through Three Cups of Tea, I don’t blame you: but give this one a try. The story is inspiring!
I also have the new “Young Reader’s” edition on reserve at the library; I’m hoping it is likewise more approachable than the original Three Cups of Tea.
If you have reviewed Listen to the Wind on your site, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.