Monday, September 19, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: If I Had a Hammer

If I Had a Hammer: Building Homes and Hope with Habitat for Humanity David Rubel

Short version of this book:

1. Habitat for Humanity is the most awesome organization in the world.
2. Building houses for poor people is super-duper rewarding.
3. Building houses for poor people has lots of steps that change depending on location and size of the Habitat affiliate.
4. Habitat seriously rocks.
5. Religion drives you to do good stuff.
6. Habitat for Humanity is the most awesome organization in the world.
7. Building houses for poor people is super-duper rewarding.
8. Habitat for Humanity is the most awesome organization in the world.
9. Building houses for poor people is super-duper rewarding.
10. Habitat for Humanity is the most awesome organization in the world.

Ok, that was more snark than this book deserves, but...

The book really rubbed me the wrong way. It reads like a book-length promotional brochure for the organization (and I really like Habitat-- I've built houses for them!) and talks about how nice and rewarding it is to build houses for all those poor poor people who need someone to help lift them out of poverty. Occasionally, it felt a bit exploitative. Also, in focusing on Habitat's Christian roots, it really focused on how people's faith makes them volunteer. It was careful to point out that it's not just Christians feel this, but it did make it sound like you had to have religion in order to want to do good and help other people. Because atheists are just sacks of selfish pigs? I don't know.

I also feel that for a book focused on young readers, it doesn't offer any way for them to get involved to help Habitat, as the target audience for this book is too young to volunteer to build. There are ways for kids to get involved-- I know when I was a kid, my church was doing a Habitat build and the kids all made sandwiches and coffee and cookies and stuff to take over to the site to feed the volunteers. I'm sure there are other things that younger readers can do as well.

BUT! I did really like the look at the international, large scale projects. My experience with Habitat has been building a house in an existing neighborhood. A lot of the international projects involve building an entire village. I liked the discussion about how houses are designed and how local culture and customs are taken into account during the design process.

The book design was also clean and I liked the little side pictures of construction implements and what they're used for.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is over at Tales from the Rushmore Kid.


Book Provided by... the publisher for 2009 Cybils consideration

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2 comments:

Roberta said...

Great review, it was a lot of fun to read. :-)

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Love snarky commentaries! Hahaha. I enjoyed reading through your review and how refreshingly candid it was. I'm actually surprised you even reviewed the book at all, haha. It must have a few redeeming qualities then. :) Usually if I find the book a bit tiring, I hardly ever (if at all) review it, although on occasion I do write a few snippets here and there. I'm glad though that you shared with us your reservations about the book. :)