I Have the Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty, translated by Helen Mixter
“I am a child / with eyes, hands, / a voice, a heart, and rights,” opens this vibrant, translated import that provides a crucial reminder that even the smallest beings in the world have basic needs that deserve and demand to be addressed and met.
Across colorful double-page spreads, the unnamed narrator shares what every child should expect as a member of the human race: a name, a family, a country, enough food and water and clean air, medical care, freedom from violence, to go to school instead of work, to be guarded against war, to play, create, and imagine. Of utmost importance is the ever-needed, timeless admonition: “I have the same rights / whether I am a girl / or a boy.”
Based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (click here for the English version) as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, author Alain Serres takes the labyrinthine 54 articles and translates the legal jargon into clear, simple language perfect for the youngest readers, so that they, too, can be well-versed in what their young lives should be like. Aurélia Fronty imbues her welcoming illustrations with whimsy and wonder, representing children – and other sweet creatures – from all over the world. The invitation to join in resonates on every page.
The bottom line is this: “I have the right … to have just enough of what I need, not more.” How could we deny any child at least that? And yet, here’s the ironic kicker: Every member of the United Nations has signed the Convention, except for three countries – Somalia, the new country of South Sudan, and … wait for it … the United States! In a footnote on the penultimate spread, the narrator adds, “If I live in one of the very few countries that haven’t agreed to the Convention, like the United States of America, then I have the right to demand that my country join! Should I not have the same rights as every other child in the world?”
Parents, be sure to read the closing endnote, because our duty is calling: “We need our rights to be respected / now – today – because it is / right now – today – / that we are children.” Amen to that!
Published: 2009 (France), 2012 (United States)