Sunday, February 20, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

These reviews appeared in the Stratford Gazette on February 17, 2011
Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian
Free? Stories about Human Rights, by various authors writing for Amnesty International, 202 pages .
“We are all born free and equal.” “We all have a right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.” “The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly.” Do these statements sound familiar? Probably – they are some of the thirty principles comprising the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – and in Canada, we are lucky to enjoy these basic human rights. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world are still denied many of the rights and freedoms proclaimed in the 63-year-old Declaration.
Penned by various authors of children’s and teen books, the stories, dialogues and poems in Free? Stories about Human Rights highlight situations or cultures where one or more basic human rights have been denied. Readers will meet Klaus, who is denied fair and equal treatment, and Leela, who is shocked when her strict, traditional East Indian grandparents shun a daughter fleeing an abusive husband (thus denying her the right to live free from hurt or torture). They’ll meet 12-year-old Ryan, who discovers that child labour and slavery really do exist - and finds the courage to do something about it.
Each story makes a definite impact, and is followed by a statement of the human right addressed by the story. After finishing the book, readers will likely feel very lucky to live in Canada.
Amnesty International works around the world to defend and campaign for human rights –for justice, truth, fairness and freedom. Founded in 1961, it has over 2 million members from 150 countries and territories.
** Recommended for ages 11 to 14 years.

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, 300 pages.
@ SPL: YA PB And
Isabel, a teenage slave living in New York in 1776, and her 5-year-old sister, Ruth, lacked many basic human rights and freedoms. When their owner died, they were sold to a cruel, sadistic woman instead of being freed as promised. Isabel’s days were filled with drudgery and hard work, and when her new owner decided to sell Ruth, she was heartbroken.
1776 was a pivotal year in American history. It was the beginning of the Revolutionary War when some Americans – the “Patriots” – were struggling for freedom from Britain, while others (the “Loyalists”) were bitterly opposed. Ironically, although freedom from Britain was gained at the end of the Revolution, 20% of the nation’s people remained bound in the chains of slavery. For them, freedom was an almost impossible dream.
During the Revolution, the Loyalists and Patriots both made use of slaves as spies, messengers and in other ways, without any thought to their safety and the danger in which they were being placed.
Isabel’s struggles, her involvement in the Revolution, her perseverance and determination, and a fast-moving plot will keep readers engrossed until the end. The characters are believable and convincing, and readers will definitely care about what happens to Isabel and Ruth. The novel’s rich, accurate historical detail will transport readers straight to the eighteenth century.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s well-researched novel would be an excellent choice for either recreational reading or for those studying Afro-American history or the American Revolution. Winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the story is followed by further historical detail and discussion.
** Recommended for ages 11 to 15 years.

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