REVIEWS+

What Can a Citizen Do?

What Can a Citizen Do? illus. by Shawn Harris. 40p. Chronicle. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452173139. POP
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OrangeReviewStarPreS-Gr 3—The creators of Her Right Foot offer a kid-accessible picture book primer on civics. Taking a broadly stroked allegorical approach, the duo employs rhyming verses and dynamic artwork to describe how a group of children come together to build their own community. A youngster wearing a head scarf and another sporting a blue baseball cap and flouncy gold skirt leave behind a distant cityscape and travel to a small island with a single tree (or is it really a backyard?). Much of the story line is presented through the detailed cut-paper illustrations. For example, when one child posts a "No trumpets" sign, three newcomers successfully plead their trumpet-supporting viewpoint ("A citizen can join a cause. A citizen can write a letter. A citizen can help change laws"). Everyone is welcome and the kids work together to build something wonderful (a fantastical tree house complete with domes, spires, and roller-coaster). Ultimately, a new-in-town boy who has been watching (and sketching) the action all along is invited to make his contribution (eye-dazzling strings of lights). Throughout, the visuals sparkle with wit and whimsy, celebrating imagination while also creating a foundation for the empowering text: "So forget yourself a second. Grab a shovel or a pen. Do something for another. Don't you dare doubt that you can!"
VERDICT Blending an appreciation for a child's perspective with a powerful message, this must-have book distills the fundamentals of citizenship into easy-to-digest concepts and emphasizes the importance of caring for others, accepting differences, and taking action to initiate positive change.

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