This book looks at children round the world and the sorts of life they lead. This kind of thing has been done loads of times before and often with a turgid right-mindedness that renders the products uniformly boring. But this one is no run-of-the-mill chapter per child per country production. Based, as it is, on UNICEF’s perception of the basic rights of children worldwide, it examines in detail how different children in different parts of the world fare in relation to these rights.
So, when considering rights related to survival, we look at how children from Afghanistan to the Netherlands fare for fresh water, food, homes, and health. The pattern is repeated for rights related to development (education mainly), protection (family, work and war) and participation (religion, nationality). Each section is interspersed with case studies based on one particular child, so we are introduced to a school day (starting at 0430) for Sbongile in South Africa, life in a Yugoslavian children’s home for Ivana, and the Youth Village in Israel where Uzbeki immigrant Eli lives.
This parallel approach to children’s lives is a far, brave and welcome cry from the endless series of the ‘Arif lives in Bangladesh’ type that used to stagnate on our shelves. Though it can provide a satisfying end-to-end read, its real strength would seem to be as a multi-faceted reference book, in which capacity it can throw light into many a dark corner.