Severn and the Day She Silenced the World by Janet Wilson

United Nations: International Day of the Girl Child, October 11

Severn and the Day She Silenced the World

Janet Wilson, Author

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, Mar. 14, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 9-13

Themes: Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Child Environmental Activist, UN Earth Summit in Rio, Speech

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki was one of a handful of children given the chance to speak at the closing of the very first Earth Summit in Rio d Janeiro, Brazil, in June of 1992.  It was a day that the media, world leaders and the world took notice. U.S. Vice President Al Gore was famously quoted as saying: “That was the best speech I heard all week!”

Politicians and environmentalists had gathered at the Summit to find solutions to problems such as air pollution and the shrinking rainforests. But for all their talk, they could find little to agree on. It took Severn’s clear, bright voice — challenging the adults of the world to take action — to bring home what was at stake.

As the daughter of environmentalists David Suzuki and Tara Cullis, Severn Suzuki loved that natural world. At age nine, she traveled with her parents to the Amazon and saw the terrible consequences of rainforest destruction on the land and for the indigenous tribes. Back home in Vancouver, she and her  friends were inspired to start the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO). They raised money to buy water filters to clean the polluted drinking water for children in the rainforest. When they learned about the Earth Summit in Rio, they began a serious fund-raising campaign. They faced obstacles, but they also had a lot of community support. ECO wanted world leaders to hear from children about their concerns for their future — an auspicious goal for three of the ECO members attending.

Why I like this book:

Janet Wilson’s writes empowering and timely books about young people who see injustices around them and take action. Wilson focuses on ordinary children who are making major contributions in their communities and in their world. Severn and her four friends show kids that they don’t have to be adults to make a difference.

Although Severn’s story is nonfiction, it reads like a story. There are photos, the ECO newsletters, newspaper articles, Severn’s diary entries and the recorded seven-minute speech before the Earth Summit. Wilson worked closely with Severn to recreate her time in history.

Severn and her friends are passionate about their work with ECO. They learn how to work as a team  which contributes to ECO’s success. They set goals, choose their projects, develop plans, target key audiences with their message, and raise funds. These girls are committed to telling adults a truth they need to hear — a truth that flows directly from their hearts.

Most important, their work fuels their future environmental interests in high school and shapes their future career paths as activists in many different ways. Severn received the UN Environment Program’s Global 500 Award in Beijing and continued her role as an environmental activist speaking around the world. At Yale University she received her degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and from the University of Victoria in British Columbia she studied Ethnoecology. Her sister, Sarika, became a marine biologist. The other members of ECO also followed similar service paths.

Severn’s riveting seven-minute speech touched the hearts of the world leaders. Her message in 1992 is even more relevant today and continues to receive thousands of hits on YouTube 25 years later.

Resources: This is an excellent classroom book as it humanizes child activism. Make sure you read the Epilogue, Severn Says, Where Are They Now?, Useful Links, and a Glossary at the end of the book. “Today, youth all over the world continue to stand up and speak out for environmental, social, and intergenerational justice. They still want adults to listen and to change their way,” says Janet Wilson. Check out the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl Child website for resources, activities and events.

Janet Wilson is an author and illustrator of many children’s books. Severn and the Day She Silenced the World is part of Wilson’s “Kid’s Power” series. Her first book Shannen and the Dream for a School, won the First Nation Communities Read and was nominated for the Silver Birch Award. Wilson has also written a series picture book series about child activism: Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet; Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World; and Our Heroes: How Kids are Making a Difference.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post. 

Our Heroes: How Kids are Making a Difference

Global Oneness Day – Oct. 24, 2014

Our Heroes9781927583418_p0_v1_s260x420Our Heroes: How Kids Are Making a Difference

Janet Wilson, Author and Illustrator

Second Story Press, Biography, September 2014

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Child Activism, Reformers, Oneness, Kindness, Social Justice

Opening: Ubuntu is a word that describes a way of living. It encourages us to treat each other with kindness because all humans are connected. Ubuntu is compassion for ourselves, for others near and far, and for the Earth. Ubuntu is our humanity.” 

Book Synopsis:  Our Heroes is a collection of true stories about child activists who have opened their hearts and minds to creatively solve the global problems of poverty, hunger and the right to receive an education. Meet Andrew Adansi-Bonnah, 11, from Ghana, who raised thousands of dollars to feed refugee children in Somalia. Alaina Podmorow, 9, from Canada, founded an organization to raise money to train Afghani teachers, pay salaries, and buy books to educate girls and women, and support an orphanage.  Kyle Weiss, 13, from the USA, and his brother Garrett, raised money to build soccer fields near schools across Africa where children who have experienced trauma or conflict could heal. Arti Verma,12, from India, became an agent for social change when she spoke to her village leaders about abolishing the discriminating caste system. Arti and her classmates led rallies and lower caste children –the untouchables– were allowed in schools.

Why I like this book: Janet Wilson is an author who writes the stories I want to read and gives me hope for the future of our global community.  She beautifully captures each child’s spirit and tugs at my heartstrings. Our Heroes is inspiring, powerful and thought-provoking. It is the third book in Wilson’s series about child activism. True to her style, Wilson showcases 10 young activists from around the globe who are on a mission to improve the lives of others. Her kid-friendly, double-page spreads feature an illustrated child’s portrait, information on what the child is doing to improve the quality of life in a community, pictures, and sidebars featuring other children activists. Winter says, “The children in this book never set out to be heroes or to be famous, but in acting on the kindness in their hearts, they have made a difference. They have all planted seed of compassion and love.”

Janet Wilson is an artist and author of many picture books. I’ve reviewed her other two books on child activism, Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet and Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World, which are popular with educators and students. Winter’s books  have won many awards.

Resources: The book is a resource. At the end there is a section for students on “What YOUth Can Do,” that will spark many lively discussions and encourage kids to think about what they may do alone or together to make the world a better place. What will you do? Visit Janet Wilson at her website.

Our Heroes is the perfect book to share today with over 50,000 people celebrating Global Oneness Day.  It was created by Humanity’s Team in 2010. Central to its theme is solidarity and recognizing our similarities. This year it will begin at dawn in Australia and spread as the sun rises around the world. On Global Oneness Day, Humanity’s Team “invites people to take this awareness of our Oneness public for one day, to remind others of our fundamental interconnection with all people and all life.”

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World

Our Rights9781926920955_p0_v1_s260x420Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World

Janet Wilson, Author and Illustrator

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes: Children, Social reformers, Human rights workers, Civil rights workers, Children’s rights

Opening: “The star thrower is one of a galaxy of bright stars — children who are part of a powerful and growing force daring to create a better world by standing up and speaking out for their right to be treated equally, to live in dignity, and to have their opinions respected.”

Synopsis:  Everyday children around the world are standing up for their rights and making a difference in their communities. Meet Emanuel Bagual from the Philippines who fought against the bullies in the slums and founded Mind Your Rights to help reduce the cycle of abuse and neglect of children by teaching parents, educators and children their basic rights.  Nujood Ali of Yemen escaped from an arranged marriage and went to a courthouse and asked the judge for a divorce, which was granted. Her book, I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, inspired other girls to come forward to sue for divorce. She wants to become a lawyer and help other girls.  Dylan Mahalingam from the USA started an online charity to raise money to fight child poverty. Anita Khushwaha of India became a beekeeper (male work) to pay for her for schooling and inspired other families to take up beekeeping. She became a role model for millions of girls in India. Zach Bonner of the USA collected water for the homeless following a hurricane — 27 truckloads.

Why I like this book: I will admit I am a fan of Janet Wilson’s books. Our Rights is packed with inspiring, true-life stories about children around the world who are standing up for their rights and daring to make a difference in their own lives, communities and world.  These children are working for the rights of children in a peaceful way.  Wilson captures their powerful stories in a double-page spread which features a warm and beautifully painted illustration of the featured child on the left and text and photographs about the child in action on the right.  This is an excellent book to use during International Day of Peace, September 21. This book belongs in every classroom.

Resources: The book closes with “Kids Take Action!” and “What YOUth Can Do” to become activists. It will spark many lively discussions and encourage kids to think about what they can do in their communities. These children are our superheroes who will change the world.  Janet Wilson is a well-known Canadian author and illustrator. Visit Janet Wilson’s website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Big Announcement: On Monday I will review PPB contributor Barbara Gruener’s new book on character development, What’s Under Your Cape: Superheroes of the Character Kind.  There will be a book giveaway.

 

 

 

Our Earth – Earth Day April 22

Our Earth9781897187845_p0_v1_s260x420Our Earth:  How Kids are Saving the Planet

Janet Wilson, Author and Illustrator

Second Story Press, Biography, 2010

Suitable for Ages: 7 -12

Themes:  Kids Saving the Planet, Conservation, Environmentalists, Youth Activists

OpeningEvery living thing shares one home — our Earth.

Synopsis:  This is a collection of stories featuring 10 children, ages 7 to 17, who are doing amazing things to save the earth.  The youths live in every part of the world. Wilson says that nearly half the earth’s population is young.  Many are compassionate,  creative and share a love of nature.  She features Ryan Hreljac from Canada who is building wells in Africa to bring people clean water…Janine Licare from Costa Rica who is saving the rainforest and its animals…Adeline Tiffanie Suwana from Indonesia whose organization, Sahabat Alam (Friends of Nature)  plants coral in damaged ocean reefs and mangroves trees to prevent damage from hurricanes and natural disasters…Fang Minghe of China and his Green Eyes Group rush to the outdoor markets looking for endangered breeds of animals and secretly films the sellers and reports them to the police…Sam Levin from the USA who has created a student run organic school vegetable garden which supplies the school’s cafeteria with fresh fruits and vegetables and donates food to needy families….and William Kamkwamba of Malawi, who built a windmill to harness the wind and create electricity for his village.  These are only a few of the inspiring stories.

Why I like  this book:  This is an exciting book for Earth Day, April 22!   I have watched children activists grow in numbers worldwide for years.  Janet Wilson has written a very empowering book about young people who have a strong desire to create a healthier world.  Each two-page spread includes a portrait of each child by Wilson, photographs of their work, quotes and information about their projects.  In the opening of Our Earth, Wilson shares a version of a traditional Aboriginal story about the Rainbow Warriors, “children who have a strong love of nature and a desire to find ways to be part of the solution.”  “They are our Rainbow Warriors. ”

Resources:  Wilson devotes a section to “Kids Create!” at the end of the book where children can learn more about conservation and find ways to get involved at home, school and in their community.  You can visit Janet Wilson at her website and view her other books on peace and young activists.  I also learned about an organization, Kids Are Heroes, where kids are making a big difference in our world.  Vivian Kirkwood, at Positive Parental Participation, introduced me to this inspiring group of kids.