The Barefoot Book of Heroic Children

Rebecca Hazell, Author, Helen Cann, Illustrator
Rebecca Hazell, Author, Helen Cann, Illustrator Barefoot Books $19.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-902283-23-4
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-1-902283-22-7
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-1-84148-916-2
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Promising in its conception but disappointing in its execution, this uneven volume spans different centuries and cultures to profile 14 children ""who made their mark on history."" Many of the subjects will already be familiar to the target audience: David fighting Goliath, Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller, Pocahontas, Alexander Graham Bell. Hazell (Heroines) begins each chapter with ""you-are-there"" scene-setting (""It is late in the evening and you're in the city of Amsterdam visiting a girl named Anne Frank""). Next, she impersonates each subject's voice (for example, she has Anne Frank say, ""But I'm young and cheerful. I can always look around and find something good in the world around me"") and follows up with a summary of his or her accomplishments. The approach tends to trivialize the material, flattening the individuality of the ""speakers."" The writing is more successful with the less-famous entries, such as the Pakistani boy Iqbal Masih, who was just 12 years old when he was killed in 1995 for his part in exposing the evils of child labor. On the other hand, it's discouraging to see role models dovetailing so neatly with gender biases: the girls here tend to be heroic for their responses to suffering, the boys for their activism. Cann's (Mary's Story) illustrations, vignettes as well as borders that reflect the background or personality of the different subjects, are primarily decorative and fail to deepen the readers' understanding of the material. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)
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