________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 16. . . .December 17, 2010.


Yes You Can! Your Guide to Becoming an Activist.

Jane Drake and Ann Love.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2010.
136 pp., pbk., $14.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-942-9.

Subject Headings:
Social change-Juvenile literature.

Grades 6-11 / Ages 11-16.

Review by Val Ken Lem.




Right to Play is an example of an international organization that began with one individual. At the Lillehammer Olympics in Norway in 1994, Johann Olav Koss had been selected to fundraise by a cooperative group of NGOs for people affected by war and disaster. Koss rose to the challenge, then, over time, his efforts shifted direction and morphed into Right to Play, whose torch gets passed forward from one volunteer to another.

Drake and Love are lifelong environmental activists who have coauthored many works for young readers, including several with environmental themes. With Yes You Can!, they seek to inspire and embolden budding social activists with a nine-step model for change. Each step is explained in a separate chapter with all chapters following the same format:

     "Each step is introduced with a dramatic story of change on a major issue to highlight the step itself. Then useful strategies and skills, critical to fulfilling every step, are offered. A historical timeline of milestones and setbacks puts the magnitude of the change into context."

     The strategies and skills sections will be the most useful sections for young activists looking for guidance on how to make change happen. Skills discussed include writing a brief, running a good meeting, preparing for the media, posters and postering, petitioning, fundraising, and keeping meticulous financial records. The introductory stories include inspiring examples from human rights, civil rights and children's rights movements, environmental initiatives, international volunteerism and a creative arts festival. The historic timelines successfully demonstrate the long history surrounding the themes explored. Entries may extend back many thousands of years but also include very recent events, such as the disastrous offshore oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. The authors include many international examples but purposely include lots of events that occurred in the United States and Canada, where the bulk of their readers will reside.

     Drake and Love readily admit that, while their nine-step model follows a sequence, the order of events may differ in a real campaign. The final chapter neatly demonstrates how all of the steps may be acted out in a realistic campaign to reduce a school's carbon footprint by means of the introduction of lunchroom recycling program. This chapter includes a very useful checklist that can be used to evaluate progress if following their nine-step model. The chapter serves as a concise recap of the ideas espoused in the volume.

     More than one reading is recommended to fully appreciate the value of this volume as both a model for activism, and for the hopeful accounts of earlier change seekers. The book includes an index but has no photographs or illustrations. Teachers and other adults who work with young people can use Yes You Can! to hone skills and strategies that are useful in many real settings, such as school fundraising initiatives and student political campaigns.


Val Ken Lem is a librarian with collection liaison responsibilities for English, history and Caribbean studies at Toronto's Ryerson University.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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