Wednesday, November 23, 2016

That's Not Fair! Getting to Know Your Rights and Freedoms by Danielle S. McLaughlin

Mayor Moe and the City Councillors want to pass good laws, but they hurry and don't think things through. Six chapters explore different civil rights with timely issues: religious freedom to dress a certain way, the right not to be searched when there's no reason to be suspected, the right to expect that laws will increase our safety, the right to say things people don't like, the right to gather in a group to protest, and the right of a particular group of people to not be treated differently.

Each five-page chapter is heavily illustrated with a variety of goofy-looking creatures serving as the townsfolk. Councillor Bug is the unheeded voice of caution who also begins and ends the book. As you may note from the spelling of Councillor, this book is from Canada and relies on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights rather than the US Bill of Rights. Nevertheless, all the rights are are familiar except the right to “Life, Liberty, and Security.”

At the end of each chapter are three questions for discussion. What were the Councillors trying to accomplish? Did their law work? Did it cause anything unexpected. As a foundation for discussion, this book should be fun to share, perhaps in a storytime for school age children. The three questions are deceptively simple but they get to the heart of good government, fairness, and the dangers of unintended consequences. They encourage children to think about trade offs – what will I have to give up to get what I want. They will help children make sense of US and global political issues. That right to security, for example, shows how people in other democracies may have different expectations.

For a more subtle approach to civics than That's not Fair! I would turn to the picture books of Dr. Seuss, Yertle the Turtle and The Sneetches, for example.

Review by Carolyn Caywood, retired from VBPL

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