CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 40 . . . . June 14, 2013
The author, Dustin Milligan, a young lawyer who identified the need for material to teach young children about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has added four more books to the "Charter for Children" series. Once again, Milligan has made a challenging subject for both young and old clearer with his cleverly humorous writing style. As if creating engaging teaching stories on the Charter wasn't enough of a challenge, Milligan writes the dialogue between the animal characters in rhyming couplets.
The illustrators of these four books, Meredith Luce, Jasmine Vicente, and Cory Tibbits, also illustrated the previous books in the series. Each has a distinct but similar style, using bright colours and cartoon-like characters to add to the storyline. The one exception to the cartoon-like characters is Meredith Luce's art work in The First Flock: Certain Rights Based on Aboriginal Heritage. The art in this book is a more stylized representation of birds with Canada geese in the starring roles.
Each book is set in a different province or territory, and each deals with a different charter right. Eventually, the series will be comprised of 14 books. Each book ends with "Note for Parents and Teachers" which quotes the section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is being focussed on in the book. The notes restate the story in a succinct summary to clarify the intent of the story. There are also some higher level thinking questions for children to consider and discuss with their parents and teachers.
Alexander the Grape is set in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. In this story, a young grape challenges the age limit that was set many years before that prevents him from becoming Oh-Grape Juice until he has matured to 10 years old. Like other books in this series, the protagonist stands up for his rights in a peaceful and thoughtful manner. In this book, however, Alexander is not successful in his efforts to get the law changed, but he is able to find a way to encourage eligible voters to consider whether the age distinction rule was justified.
The First Flock is set in the Northwest Territories where the flock of Canada geese have their summer home. When the flock is expelled from its traditional migratory resting spot on the Bow River and their winter home in Colorado, the flock becomes exhausted and hungry. Many of the flock do not survive. Although not formally a part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, "some commentators have argued that this [section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982], and Aboriginal rights generally have been part of the larger 'Charter revolution' in Canada."
The Greyest Tale on the Yukon Trail is set in Dawson City, Yukon. Trained by "Dogavan Bailey", and clearly the fastest husky, it is a surprise to all when "Sam HusGee" is passed over to lead the team. He has been discriminated against because:
This story deals with the right to equal treatment and freedom from discrimination on the basis of colour or race. The "Notes for Parents and Teachers" emphasizes the point that equality requires more than just passing anti-discrimination laws. It requires vigilance and persistence. "Instances of unfair treatment must be continually confronted and challenged."
In the Hoofsteps of Emooly Murphy takes place at the Stampede in Calgary, AB. Eva realizes that her financial hardships are the result of a decision made by the City Stall, an all-male political body, to pay cows less than bulls for comparable work, despite equal qualifications. This story is an analogy to women's historic exclusion from the Canadian Senate and the fight of the "Famous Five" (from Alberta), who won the right for women to be considered "persons" in 1929. It looks at "the historic struggle for women's rights in this country, and more broadly, of the struggle for greater equality based on gender."
I highly recommend these four new books in "The Charter for Children" series. These quirky stories open the door for some meaningful discussion with young people to help them know and understand their rights. Importantly, these books counsel students to stand up for their rights by working within the law.
Suzanne Pierson is a retired teacher-librarian, currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.