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Monday, August 1, 2011

This Child, Every Child, written by David J Smith and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong. Kids Can, 2011. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"They may be kidnapped or
sold by their families for money
or food - their families may
believe better opportunities await
the children in other places. These
children may find themselves far
from home, forced to be domestic
servants, lightweight jockeys on
camels or horses, workers in
factories or beggars."

I think that this CitizenKid series of books can have a huge impact on young readers, offering them clear information about the children of the world. The more we know, the more tolerant and empathetic we become to all people. The statistics and stories in the book offers a comparison to lives beyond our own borders:

"Not every child in a developing country is poor or sick; not every child in a wealthy country is rich or healthy. But there can be a relationship between where children live and what their lives are like, and knowing this can help us understand more about the children of the world."

Some of the rights of children as agreed to under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are prominently displayed on each double page spread, and have a connection to the information shared there. There are heartbreaking differences in the way children live. Many do not have the same opportunities as other children despite this worldwide convention. As we read, we meet some of the children whose lives are dramatically different than ours.
There is great diversity. Ling lives on a houseboat in Aberdeen Harbor in Hong Kong. While her house is not conventional...the family boat never moves from its place in the harbor and her mother and grandparents rarely leave the boat, Ling and her brother go to school and bring home food for the family meals. There is love and security there for her. That is not so for many:

"Nearly 40 percent of all homeless children live in Latin America and 20 percent live in India. They spend their lives on the streets, alone or as part of a street family, or in an institution, such as an orphanage."

Each turn of the page offers new stories and comparisons...all eye-opening and informative. They give a real sense of the plight of some of the children who live in our world, while also hopeful for others. The accompanying illustrations offer great variety in setting while giving a face to the children being described. There is warmth in the color palette, an interesting juxtaposing of the shared stories and a sense of hope for the future:

"The future of the world depends on today's children, and the world needs to make sure that all children - including you - get an education and develop safely, happily and successfully into adults. Then communities and countries will have citizens and leaders who can care for the next generation of children."

The back matter includes a long list of the rights of children. They are non-negotiable; all countries belonging to the United Nations have agreed to follow them. The authors also include ways that we can learn more about the children of the world. Finally, there is a list of the sources used in the writing of this remarkable piece of nonfiction.

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