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The Book Shelf – Nov. 15

I Have the Right to be a Child, By Alain Serres, 48 pages. @ SPL: J 323.352 Serre

What, exactly, does “the right to be a child” mean? In its “Declaration of the Rights of the Child,” the United Nations, on November 20, 1956, identified the rights that children everywhere should expect to have. They have been explained and beautifully illustrated for young children in a new picture book by author Alain Serres and artist Aurelia Fronty.

Children have the right to enough food to eat and enough water to drink in order to grow and be healthy. They have the right to shelter and to be cared for by their family. They have the right to breathe clean air and the right to attend school and learn, without having to pay. Girls and boys alike, of every country, whether they are “black or white, small or big, rich or poor, born here or somewhere else,” have the right to be respected and to be treated equally. Children have the right to be safe from violence such as war and child abuse. They also have the right to be “cured with the best medicines that were ever invented” and to be helped if they have special needs.

Since 1956, 193 countries/states have adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. However, in many parts of the world (including some of the world’s richest countries), the basic needs and rights of some children are still not being met. The young narrator of this book asks “When will all children everywhere really have their rights respected?” Alain Serres, a former kindergarten teacher in Paris, is now an author and the founder of the French-language publishing house “Rue du Monde”, which specializes in books that help children question and imagine their world.

A short afterword to this engaging book, translated from the original French publication, further explains the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. November 20 is known as Universal Children’s Day, observed each year to honour children, celebrate childhood, and promote the welfare of children everywhere.

** Recommended for ages five to 10.

My Brave Year of Firsts: Tries, Sighs, and High Fives, By Jamie Lee Curtis, 40 pages. @ SPL: JP Curti Following

“It’s Hard to be Five,” Jamie Lee Curtis’ newest picture book celebrates the growing independence of a young child and the courage which children need to try things for the first time. Frankie is experiencing many “firsts” this year – some of them good, and some of them challenging. She learns to ride – and crash – a bicycle.

She is given her first dog, learns how to tie her shoes and starts grade one at school. She begins taking riding lessons on a pony named Ace. (And when Frankie has her first fall, she learns to hold tightly to the reins, how to command the pony, and how to trot.)

Later in the year, there are even more firsts for Frankie. She gets her first public library card and chooses her first book. She participates in her first pony show, begins a ballet class and plays her first game of T-ball. Most of Frankie’s firsts are happy, but a few are not – such as her first experience of getting caught (by her parents) in a lie.

Like Curtis’ other picture books, My Brave Year of Firsts will be popular with young children, featuring an appealing story and the detailed, amusing watercolour-and-line sketches of illustrator Laura Cornell.

** Recommended for ages four to seven.

Sally Hengeveld, librarian

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