With worldwide austerity programmes resulting in cutbacks to services for young and old alike, this picture-book, endorsed by Amnesty International UK, is a timely reminder that all humans are born with certain inalienable rights. As explained on the dust jacket, those for children are outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, agreed and signed by Ireland and 192 other countries in 1989. Children are acutely aware from a very early age of issues of justice and fair play; the vibrant, eye-catching and naïf-style illustrations, along with the simple but inspiring text, will prompt many discussions about those children, in this country and elsewhere, whose enjoyment of their rights is regularly denied.
Beginning with physical traits common to most children (“I’ve got eyes … voice and a heart”), the young narrator proceeds to ask thought-provoking questions about the universality of access to named human rights relating to gender, disability, ethnic origin etc. Adults reading “Is it my right to go to school for free?” may be too enraged by thoughts of ‘voluntary’ school fees to further read about the child’s desire “to learn why poppy seeds blow on the breeze”, but it is precisely such revealing glimpses into how children actually think that add to the charm and power of this book.
Sadly, most readers can answer the question posed in a double-page spread “Will people respect me for who I am, whether I’m black or white … rich or poor, born here or somewhere else?” for we all know too well what happens to children’s rights in this less-than-perfect world.