Books on Human Rights

December 10 is Human Rights Day, as established by the UN General Assembly in 1950. According to a national survey by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, teachers across the country are looking for more human rights tools and resources — especially when teaching younger children.

This list first appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News, and was compiled by Meghan Howe. Many of these titles were initially selected for Best Books for Kids & Teens over the last seven years.


Mimi’s Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It
(Citizen Kid)
written by Katie Smith Milway
illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
(Kids Can Press, 2012)
In a Kenyan village, Nurse Tela comes to discuss important facts about clean water, handwashing and mosquito nets. Mimi and her Ma join the village health committee and, as Mimi listens to Nurse Tela talk, she dreams of one day becoming a nurse or a doctor so she, too, can help other villages become healthy.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

Mom and Mum are Getting Married!
written by Ken Setterington
illustrated by Alice Priestley
(Second Story Press, 2004)
When Rosie finds out that her two mothers are getting married, she has one worry … will she get to be the flower girl? Here is a joyful celebration of love and family in a changing world.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

The Stamp Collector
written by Jennifer Lanthier
illustrated by François Thisdale
(Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012)
A city boy finds a stamp that unlocks his imagination; a country boy is captivated by stories. One becomes a prison guard; the other works in a factory. When the country boy is imprisoned for his stories, the letters sent to him intrigue the guard and a unique friendship begins.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

This Child, Every Child: A Book About the World’s Children
(Citizen Kid)
written by David J. Smith
illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
(Kids Can Press, 2011)
Not all children have access to clean air and water, adequate food, health care, education or other basic needs. Using statistics and stories to explore how children live around the world, this book talks about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in child-friendly language and empowers young readers to ensure those rights are respected.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)


Emily Included
written by Kathleen McDonnell
(Second Story Press, 2011)
Born with severe cerebral palsy, Emily Eaton wanted to be a kid like everyone else. She and her family took her fight to go to school with non-disabled children all the way to the Supreme Court. Emily’s battle was long, hard and history-making. Emily is a role model for children everywhere, living with a disability or not.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

Factory Girl
written by Barbara Greenwood
(Kids Can Press, 2007)
Greenwood recounts the plight of North American working children during the early 1900s, using a blend of fiction and non-fiction. The fictional story details the life of 12-year-old Emily Watson who leaves school to work as a factory girl. The nonfiction text discusses the historical aspects of Emily’s story. Includes archival photos.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

Human Rights Activist
(Get Involved!)
written by Ellen Rodger
(Crabtree Publishing, 2010)
This clearly written book examines the history of human rights, and how everyone is entitled to basic human rights, regardless of their age, race, religion, gender, abilities or political beliefs. Learn how activists have fought for a human rights declaration at the United Nations, and how activists often suffer for their beliefs.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World
written by Susan Hughes
(Owlkids Books, 2011)
Travel all over the world to discover incredible schools and the students who attend them. People have devised innovative ways to allow kids to attend school — from erecting temporary schools after natural
disasters to building schools near dumps to holding school classes on boats, in the streets or in train stations.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

Our Rights: How Kids Are Changing the World
written and illustrated by Janet Wilson
(Second Story Press, 2013)
A girl who spoke out against her government for the rights of aboriginal children, a boy who walked across his country to raise awareness for homelessness, and a former child soldier who wants to make music not war. International stories of kids who are standing up for their rights. Young readers may also enjoy Wilson’s Shannen and the Dream for a School and One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression
written by Laura Scandiffio
(Annick Press, 2012)
Seven fascinating profiles of people who, despite the dangers, followed their moral compass rather than obey the rules. Read about Sophie and Hans Scholl who distributed anti-government pamphlets in Nazi
Germany, Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on a bus, Helen Suzman who fought apartheid in South Africa and other inspirational stories.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in African That Brought Them Together
written by Herb Shoveller
(Kids Can Press, 2006)
The true story of a six-year-old who built a well halfway around the world and his lifechanging friendship with a Ugandan boy.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)


All You Get Is Me
written by Yvonne Prinz
(HarperCollins Canada, 2011)
Yanked from city life, 16-year-old Roar is suddenly a farm girl, selling figs at the farmer’s market. Caught between a troublemaking friend, falling in love and her father’s human-rights crusade on behalf of Mexican farm workers, Roar will have to tackle it all.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

The Bite of the Mango
written by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland
(Annick Press, 2008)
Mariatu Kamara led a carefree childhood in a small village in Sierra Leone. But, when she was 12, young rebels cut off her hands. Discover her astounding journey from her war-torn country to a new life in Canada — and a role as a UNICEF Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

Five Thousand Years of Slavery
written by Marjorie Gann and Janet Willen
(Tundra Books, 2011)
This comprehensive history includes firsthand accounts, maps, archival photos, an index and suggestions for further reading. It looks at slavery throughout history and discusses the situation in modern times. Much more than a reference work, it is an exploration of the worst — and the best — in human society.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

June Callwood: A Life of Action
written by Anne Dublin
(Second Story Press, 2006)
This first ever biography of June Callwood, one of Canada’s most inspiring activists, is filled with photographs and exciting details about her life.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death – The Story of Steven Truscott
(Real Justice)
written by Bill Swan
(James Lorimer, 2012)
Steven Truscott was 14 when he was sentenced to death for his classmate’s murder. He maintained his innocence during his many years in prison and was eventually cleared of all wrong doing — receiving an official apology and compensation. Teen readers will want to check out the other books in the powerful Real Justice series.
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel
written by Sharon E. McKay and Daniel Lafrance
Illustrated by Daniel Lafrance
(Annick Press, 2013)
Abducted and forced to become a child soldier, 14-year-old Jacob struggles to maintain his sanity and the will to escape the horrors inflicted on him, his friends and their victims. Striking artwork and a powerful text capture the essence of life as a child soldier. Adapted from the 2008 award-winning novel War Brothers (Puffin Canada).
(Buy from: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)