For Young Persons

For Every Child

For Every ChildFOR EVERY CHILD - A UNESCO Publication
(The rights of the child in words and pictures)
Foreword by Archbishop Tutu
Text by Caroline Castle

"Every household should have one" says the Observer. Too right. This appealingly illustrated book is addressed to children, but all adults should read it too. It depicts a happy childhood in many entrancing ways, in pictures with simple captions. We see children of every race and creed performing with little toy instruments, playing with friends, being cared for by elder children and adults, building sand-castles. They are pictured listening to stories read to them by loving adults, having magical moments in the countryside.

Every one of their entitlements is explained and illustrated: appropriate and enjoyable education, freedom from harm, whether inflicted intentionally or through neglect. All their rights are explained in the simplest possible way.

As we well know, millions of children throughout the world, including in our own prosperous countries, do not enjoy these rights. The ravages of war and poverty are added to adult neglect and sometimes violence to make their lives a misery This saddening thought arises inescapably from a reading of this excellent UNESCO publication, with its inspiring foreword by the archbishop, well known for his part in the anti-Apartheid struggle. He saw, at first hand, plenty of child suffering in his own country.

A heart-warming call to all of us to work for the universal implementation of these rights.

What’s Your Problem

Bali RaiWhat's Your Problem? by Bali Rai

Racism is the core theme of Bali Rai's hard-hitting teenage novel, which follows the experiences of Jas, a fourteen-year-old Asian boy, who has just moved into a village near Nottingham with his family.

At his previous school in Leicester, Jas had met racism but, with plenty of fellow Asians around, there was safety in numbers. Now he finds himself alone in a small, white community and is ill equipped to deal with the constant name calling of fellow pupils at his new school.

What's more many of the villagers of all ages who shop at his father's newsagent's are members of the Brotherhood of the White Fist (BWF), a racist organisation that hounds and threatens immigrants.

Jas feels alone. He is unable to make his parents understand how wretched he feels in the village and cannot accept his father's passive way of dealing with the racist bullies in the shop

Although he makes a few friends at school and has a kindly form tutor, Jas feels he cannot confide in them about the abuse he is subjected to every day particularly from Steggsy, the ringleader. He cannot understand why someone like him who was born in the UK can be shunned just because their skin colour

'I spoke the same language as they did. I liked the same bands and computer games. I mostly ate the same food too – burgers, chips, pizzas and all that. And I bet they all ate curry'

Everything comes to a head when Steggsy takes exception to Jas's growing relationship with Jemma, his stepsister, and is determined to 'get the Paki'. What happens from then on shows just how ingrained and deep-rooted racial hatred can be and what it takes for Jas to turn his back on the village once and for all

It is a book that would provide a valuable starting point for a classroom discussion on the themes of racism and social injustice.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Rigoberta Menchú Tum by Heather Lehr Wagner
(Activist for Indigenous Rights in Guatamala)

Rigoberta's whole family, mother, father and brothers, were tortured and murdered by the army, instrument of ruling class oppression. Although a simple woman from the mountains, she has devoted her whole life to the struggle for peace in her homeland and has become " a voice for those who have no voice." For this she has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It is significant that she heard the news on the phone whilst resting in the local Catholic church after a mass demonstration. So this simple woman, of peasant stock, was recognised by the international community for her valiant and dangerous work on behalf of her people.

The subject of this book, one of a series on Modern Peacemakers, is the inspirational leader of the Mayan people of Guatamala. The indigenous people (Indians) are on the lowest rung of society. Above them are those of mixed blood, the ladinos. But the real masters are the criollos of European (mainly Spanish) descent.
The country's history is one of constant in-fighting between different tribes interrupted, and superseded, by the Spanish conquest. This was followed by a long period of colonial rule in which the enslaved population was decimated by cruel labour and diseases introduced by the conquerors. Since then, the lot of the Indians has not improved but actually worsened. And brutal repression by the ruling class has meant a miserable – and dangerous - life for millions of Guatemalans.

The book is one of twelve dealing with Nobel Prizewinners. It outlines the history of Guatemala, the largest and most populous country in Central America. Despite some recent controversy about the accuracy of certain details in her biography, she comes across as a steady and uncompromising champion of the rights of her oppressed people.

Read the book and feel taller and more human as a result


Double Cross

bookdouble cross w200 h200

Double Cross by Malorie Blackman.

You'll not just be doubly cross, you'll be furious! Who murdered President Kennedy?
This book by the brother of Al Capone's successor, Sam "Mooney" Giancana, answers that question and the even more important one: who got Kennedy elected in the first place? Britain is now more closely associated with the USA than ever. Shouldn't we want to know how it is governed, what makes it tick?
If he's lying, the author would be behind bars. His grisly and frightening tale is about casual mass murder and, equally important, the enormous political influence exercised by an unbelievably callous gang of criminals, over American political life. Those who have doubted the boasts of American "democracy" will have their worst suspicions confirmed.
The background of mayhem, swindling, torture and "persuasion" in the name of amassing vast fortunes and an opulent and vulgar lifestyle is delineated in chilling detail. The author records frank discussions with his brother, whose complete lack of conscience sickened him.
The sexual exploitation and disloyalty described shows these gangsters to be just as crooked in their personal and emotional life.
It's a fascinating story and – an education.

Refugee Boy


Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah

Alem is an African boy of fourteen and the child of a "mixed" marriage: his father Ethiopian, his mother Eritrean. Unfortunately for the family, these two nations are at war and they are forced to declare which side they are on. They must abandon their partner if they are on the "wrong" side. Refusal to do so or even hesitation brings brutal beatings, or worse, and the order to leave immediately. The slightest sign of refusal leads to the destruction of your home and all its contents.

The father (Mr. Kelo) takes Alem on "holiday" to England and, after a little sightseeing and a stay at a hotel, seemingly abandons him. Not so. He has left him in England to preserve his life, knowing that the Refugee Council will look after him. Alem is visited by two ladies from there, one of them an African; they tell him they are friends, there to help him and that he should contact them when in need

They place him in home for children in a similar position to his but he is desperately unhappy there. The conditions are abysmal and he is mercilessly bullied. He attempts to run away and is eventually placed with a loving, caring foster mother, of Irish descent.- and her stroppy 17-year-old daughter.
He is a serious, studious boy and when he goes to school he is intense about his education and wins the admiration of his teachers, There is some teasing from his classmates but two older boys befriend him These are of the hippie type but golden-hearted. He is introduced to an Indie band whose black leader is a militant believer in freedom for all.

But it isn't all good news. He hears from his father that his mother has disappeared and he fears the worst. Later he hears that his mother has been found – dead. The bottled up emotions burst and he cannot stop weeping. The family try to comfort him and, surprise, surprise, the daughter, who has seemed hostile to him, is the only one who really knows how to give him comfort and behaves like a mother, as only teen-age girls can when deeply stirred.
His father arrives in England and the bitterly hard road to acquire refugee status begins. When this is twice rejected, his school friends organise a mighty petition, signed by thousands, and a huge demonstration, joined by fellow pupils, parents and even teachers. This heartbreaking and heart warming experience, may seem a littler unreal to the reader but the author's skill induces us to accept it as, at least, possible.

I could not put the book down. If you read none other of my recommended books, READ THIS ONE.


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