Open Hearts Big Dreams Ready Set Go Books Honored Among “Best in the World”

July 2023 – Open Hearts Big Dreams (OHBD) is delighted to announce that two of their OHBD-Ready Set Go Books (RSG) have been honored with Gourmand Awards 2023. My Five Senses, by Elizabeth Spor Taylor, was listed as First in “Food Books for Children—Africa.” And Letter from a Plow Nation, by Dr. Worku L. Mulat, was listed as Second in “Sustainability Books” and noted under “Africa Fund Raising.” Founded in 1995, the Gourmand Awards are selected each year from over 100.000 publications from 230 countries/regions around the world. The awards have been compared to film’s Oscars. This year’s Gourmand Awards Ceremony for the Best in the World took place in Sweden.

OHBD-RSG Books program publishes culturally appropriate bilingual books and distributes them to readers in Ethiopia and around the world. The rapidly growing list includes over 160 books in nineteen languages, with more than 360,000 books printed and distributed in Ethiopia through OHBD’s local printing pilot and collaborations.

Jane Kurtz volunteers as the creative lead on the OHBD-RSG Books and was herself presented with the prestigious IBBY-iRead Outstanding Reading Promoter Award in September 2022, based on this work and her decades of work in Ethiopia. Kurtz is thrilled that these new awards highlight the significant role OHBD-RSG books play. As Kurtz says, “Many Ethiopian children have never held a book with colorful pictures, especially not ones that show and honor the things they see and smell and touch and taste and hear. Art crosses global boundaries.”

 Letter from a Plow Nation is an especially meaningful title for the OHBD-RSG team because it was their official 100th book. The author, Dr. Mulat, was born and grew up in a remote village called Kersole, South Wollo, Ethiopia, to parents who never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write. His parents were determined their children would break the cycle of poverty by unlocking the power of education. Dr. Mulat went on to earn advanced degrees in biology, environmental sanitation, and applied ecology. He has a strong passion to give back to his village and others around Ethiopia by promoting literacy, innovation, and education.

Letters from a Plow Nation was illustrated by Ethiopian-Canadian artist Daniel Getahun, who received a diploma in graphic art from Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts and Design. He is an innovative artist who combines both traditional and digital techniques to create uniquely compelling pieces. Readers particularly love that his art plays with the distinctive style of ancient Ethiopian paintings; as one reader says, “He combines the beauty of old Ethiopia and modern Ethiopia on the page.” The artist notes, “Children’s books inspire my creativity as an artist and remind me of my childhood memories of living in Ethiopia.”

“Both Worku and Daniel have compelling life stories that show the power of literacy and education,” explains OHBD Founder and Executive Director Ellenore Angelidis. “And they bring that into their work by creating stories that reach back in time as well as inspire the future. Letters from a Plow Nation also has the interesting vantage point of having the country of Ethiopia as the narrator.”

The other winning title, My Five Senses, helps young readers experience the rich culture of Ethiopia through their eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and hands via an inquisitive dual-language early reader. 

Author Elizabeth Spor Taylor is an international literacy specialist and volunteer who traveled to Ethiopia eleven times to visit schools and work collaboratively with Ethiopian educators. The book’s illustrations were created primarily by retired US seniors working on the craft of painting at Clark College Economic and Community Development in Vancouver, Washington. Carol Rose, one of the art students who made significant contributions to the book, notes how fulfilling the project was by saying, “My first watercolor classes began after I retired. I’m honored to donate art to this project. I believe words and art can open new doors in your mind and bring joy to your life.”

OHBD is a Seattle-based, not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to increasing literacy, inclusion, innovation readiness, and leadership skills in Ethiopia and beyond; these awards are expected to have a big impact on their programming. As Ellenore Angelidis states, “We thank the Gourmand Awards for recognizing our OHBD-RSG books in this way. Bringing quality children’s books that celebrate Ethiopian stories and culture to kids around the world, particularly in Ethiopia, is a key goal for us. This type of visibility is essential as each book purchased provides critical funding to allow us to locally print and donate these books to young readers in Ethiopia.”

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