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Courtesy of Puffin Books

Three Cups of Tea

Best seller's children's edition offers important lessons about cultural sensitivity, religious tolerance and the power of education

By Trisha Elliott

Three Cups of Tea
By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, adapted for young readers
by Sarah Thomson
(Puffin Books) $11

Three Cups of Tea: The Young Reader’s Edition is a less politicized version of the best-selling adult non-fiction work of the same name. Both books recount the hospitality that saved Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greg Mortenson’s life and the friendships that radically redirected it.

In 1993, Mortenson attempted to climb K2, the second-tallest mountain in the world. But he got lost in extremely cold conditions without food, water or warm clothing and wound up in the village of Korphe, Pakistan, where Haji Ali, the village chief, and other Balti tribespeople nursed him back to health. Together, they changed the course of Mortenson’s life with their compassion, insight — and tea.

“The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die,” Ali told Mortenson over several cups of tea.

Mortenson’s relationship with Ali awakened him to the struggles of people in some of the most remote villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Three Cups of Tea describes how Mortenson not only fulfilled his promise to Ali to build a school in Korphe but accomplished the mammoth task of raising funds to build more than 60 others.

A chapter book full of important lessons about perseverance, cultural sensitivity, religious tolerance, bravery, sexism and the power of education to promote peace, Three Cups is well worth encouraging middle-schoolers to read. Young people will identify with Mortenson’s 12-year-old daughter, Amira, who describes some of her own perspectives on education and gratitude in a Q-and-A section. Additionally, the photos, glossary and timeline make the story more accessible than the adult version. Discussion questions at the end of the book would stimulate good conversation over the kitchen table or in the classroom.

Although Three Cups of Tea could be a more descriptive and engaging read, it’s hard not to be impressed and inspired by it.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
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