20 January 2010


Stories Celebrating Human Rights

Authors - Various

Walker Books. Junior, Young Adult, Anthology. Paperback rrp $17.95

Guest Reviewer Jo Burnell

‘It’s not fair!’ The familiar catch cry echoes in western schools and homes. However, some situations are a little more unfair than others. Teenagers today can be unaware of the international perspective. Those who have never faced real danger struggle to imagine what it’s like to have their lives under constant threat.

After the atrocities committed in World War 2, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written in an attempt to uphold basic human rights. However, such documents are not readily available to the average teenager.

Free? aims to bridge the gap between everyday life in a relatively safe world and places where human rights are ignored or forgotten. Stories set in suburbia highlight how we can trespass on the rights of others. Other tales are set in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, in London with an attempted theft of the Crown Jewels and at the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Issues covered span from that of human trafficking to the idea that we all have a right to our own thoughts and ideas.

Short stories and verse by a number of well-known international authors (including Margaret Mahy, Michael Morpurgo and Ursula Dubosarsky) help explain the contents of the Declaration of Human Rights. Some pieces are funny, while others are tragic. They all touch the heart in some way.

This anthology is a must for any classroom studying justice and individual rights. Apart from the educational content, I kept reading simply because I enjoyed the stories, especially those with a twist.

This book is a first in its attempt to provide youth with an easy-to-read way of comprehending the implications of an international legal document. I hope it is the first of many. It rocks.

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