BOOKS

Cover of Our Heroes How Kids are Making a Difference
Our Heroes: How Kids Are Making a Difference
Janet Wilson;Second Story Press, 201432 pages, $18.95
*****
Reviewed by Rosemary Renton

Our Heroes: How Kids Are Making a Difference by Janet Wilson is a collection of short biographies of child activists. Each biography features a child who saw an injustice and worked to make a difference. Included are children like Alaina from Canada, who raised money to support girls’ education in Afghanistan, and Kesz from the Philippines, who, instead of a birthday present for himself, asked for donations of flip-flops for kids who worked as garbage-pickers in the local dump.

Our Heroes is part of a growing number of books about child activism, but what makes it stand out for Ontario teachers is the Canadian content (many of the children are Canadian or have Canadian connections) and the accessible format. Ten young activists are featured, each on a double-page spread, with a beautiful portrait by Wilson, supplemented by photographs, a short biography, and a sidebar with additional information and quotes. At the back there are shorter, one-paragraph summaries of more children who have worked for change, followed by a list of websites for the featured children and their organizations.

The text is manageable and engaging for young readers and would make a powerful read-aloud. Many of the biographies would be appropriate to read to students as young as Grade 1, but the book would be inspiring for all K-8 students as part of a social justice unit or in response to difficult questions about unfairness in the world. The book contains a good balance between male and female activists, and includes stories about how kids have handled bullying, donated food to animal shelters, responded to homelessness and raised money for sports facilities. There is something to inspire every reader.

As a teacher, I have been at a loss, at times, to know what to say when students want me to explain the injustice they see in the world. Our Heroes is an optimistic and empowering book for children who want to make a change. As Hannah Taylor, age eight, points out, “When you feel sad about things, if you do something to change the problem, your heart won’t feel so sad.”

Rosemary Renton is a member of the Simcoe County Teacher Local.

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