UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, has co-published, along with Phyllis Fogelman Books, a new picture book that nicely sets an optimistic tone for the new millennium. For Every Child is drawn from the 54 principles formally adopted in November 1989 by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and for every book sold, the publisher will donate $1.50 to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Fourteen of the principles are addressed in simple, ringing language and are accompanied with illustrations by 14 artists from around the world. You'll find the full legal wording of the principles in an appendix at the back of the book.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu sets the tone of both outrage and optimism in his powerful foreword. After describing some of the horrifying photographs of children taken during recent wars, he declares a manifesto: " . . . Let the twenty-first century be marked by peace and justice and development. . . . We each can make a difference if we are vigilant to create a new kind of society, more compassionate, more caring, more sharing, where human rights, where children's rights are respected and protected."
The 14 UN principles include such sentiments as, "Understand that all children are precious. Pick us up if we fall down, and if we are lost, lend us your hand. Give us the things we need to make us happy and strong, and always do your best for us whenever we are in your care." The words appear across the bottom of double-page spreads that give the artists elbowroom to create their splendid variety of pictures.
Not surprisingly, the illustrators include an international spectrum of talent. Currently the artwork is on tour, exhibiting in museums and bookstores throughout the U.S.
For Every Child isn't a speech or a lecture. It is a celebration - a celebration of variety and youth and innocence - and a reminder of our commitment to those who cannot fend for themselves.
Michael Sims writes about science and nature for adults and children.