Book Review by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp: “Dear World” by Bana Alabed

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Bana Alabed, a brave young girl from Syria, was born in 2009 in Aleppo.  Her early years were peaceful and happy, surrounded by a loving family.  The onset of war in her country changed her life and the lives of her family forever.

“Dear World” is Bana Alabed’s account of what living through a war feels like, through the eyes of a child.  Alabed writes in a simple, straightforward and very honest way and her book is very readable, both for adults and children.  It is also interspersed with writing by her mother, giving us an insight into the pain of a parent trying to protect her children from harm in the most terrible circumstances: circumstances which ultimately lead to the family deciding to leave Syria and become refugees.

Alabed says, “I dedicate my book to every child suffering in a war.  You are not alone.”   Her book is prefaced with a quotation from Anne Frank…. another very famous girl who wrote about her experiences living through a war.

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What struck me, as an adult, reading “Dear World” was the universality or Bana Alabed’s experience of modern war: the similarities of her story to that of children and young people (like Anne Frank) who have suffered as a result of war, in our world’s recent history.  The words, “When will they ever learn?” from Bob Dylan’s famous song come to mind.  Regardless of the time period and technology, the trauma experienced by children living through a war is the same.  Alabed is a child of our modern technological age, born in 2009 (the same year as my third son).  She plays with Barbie dolls, wears “Princess Barbie boots” and watches Sponge Bob Square Pants and Tom and Jerry with her two younger brothers… in between running to the basement during shelling.  There is a sense of a “normal” childhood, interspersed with the horrors of war.  Alabed has an I-pad and she uses it to communicate with the outside world.  Her “tweets for peace” in English become famous around the world and draw attention to her country’s plight.

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These same tweets also made Bana Alabed, then aged only seven, an enemy of the Assad government, who actively attempted to silence her.  As well as living in fear of the war, the Alabed family were terrified for their young daughter’s life and dressed her as a boy whenever they went out, to avoid drawing attention.  Alabed is an intelligent, sensitive and perceptive child who lives through her father being taken away by the secret police and the death of her best friend  Yasmin, whose body is lifted from the rubble after a bombing.

“After Yasmin was gone, I was even more scared to die….the way I missed Yasmin…gave me a feeling like I was sinking inside. I couldn’t talk to her. We wouldn’t get to dress up in our favourite princess dresses ever again. I bet Yasmin’s favourite dresses were all under the rubble still.” [pp.114-115].

Alabed tells us that all the things she loved about her childhood vanished because of the war: going to the local swimming pool, going to school or the playground or shops.  Hospitals, schools and public places became targets and even in their homes, people felt like “sitting ducks.”

Although Alabed’s story ends with her safe escape from Syria as a refugee (and it does not destroy the story to tell you that), it raises questions for us all. What use is our modern technology and ability to communicate with those in a war zone if we are unable to help?  And why, despite our technological advances, do we still live in a world where war is necessary? And where children suffer because of war?

Alabed also draws attention to the plight of refugees the world over.  At the beginning of her book she speaks of her pride in Syrian culture and sense of belonging in her family and history.

“I wanted to live in Syria always.” [p.15]

Her mother says they never imagined a war could happen there.

“I suppose that’s what everyone believes until it’s too late.” [p.51].

This puts me in mind of people the world over, who have had to leave their countries.  Everyone likes to feel safe in their homeland, the land of their ancestors, and to believe that their children and grandchildren will always live there.  Unfortunately, this is not always possible.  Alabed advocates for children still living in war zones everywhere and for fellow former refugees.

“…children are still dying and getting hurt everyday…we all have to help one another, no matter what country we live in.” [p.203]

“If you had no country or your parents or children were going to be killed, what would you do?” [p.201]

Here at the “Forever Years”, we see the world’s children as our own children.  “There but for the grace of God go I” (John Bradford) is a phrase that comes to mind.

I recommend “Dear World” to children and adults alike.  As J.K. Rowling says, it is “a story of love and courage amid brutality and terror.”  Through reading this book, we come to love its young author, Bana Alabed, and the strength of character she displays as she continues to send her message of peace to the world.

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How to talk to your kids about Syria, by Sarah Williams, Child Psychologist

Sarah Williams is a child psychologist at Refugees As Survivors (RASNZ). She is currently working with the Syrian children and families arriving in New Zealand who seek the support of RASNZ during their 6-week orientation at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

World Vision spoke to Sarah about how to speak to Kiwi children about the crisis in Syria and about refugees, and about the new Kiwis arriving here from the Middle East. 

1. Speak honestly, but use language they understand

Firstly, ask your child what they know about the situation. Listen to how they are making sense of what they know or what they have seen in the media.

Any discussion with children needs to be adjusted for age and level of understanding but it also needs to be honest. Children trust their parents to help them understand what happens in the world around them.

With younger children use situations they might understand – leaving one’s home, leaving possessions behind, fleeing without saying goodbye, feeling scared, trying to find a safe place. Talk to them about people in Syria needing to quickly leave their home and travel to another country to be safe due to the war.

With older children we can talk about what it means to be a refugee, the complexity of the Syrian situation, persecution, and the difficult journey to seek refuge in another country.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

https://www.worldvision.org.nz/news-blog/blogs-2017/may/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-syria

10 Dr. Seuss Books you’ve Never Heard of, by Crystal Ponti

Dr. Seuss is one of the most beloved children’s writers of all time. During his career, he wrote more than 60 playful and exuberant books – each with a deeper message about life, love, and humanity.

His most memorable titles, like “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Cat in the Hat”, are mainstays on children’s bookshelves. But he also penned many books that never quite made it into the spotlight.

Here are 10 Dr. Seuss books you might not have heard of (and if you have, you must be a super fan):

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“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” (1937)

The very first book Dr. Seuss ever published under his pen name, this lively tale about Marco and his vivid imagination predates his bestselling titles, but is still among his best. Travel down Mulberry Street, the most interesting place in town – a place where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Marco spins a wonderful story for his father, turning everyday sights into wild highlights of his journey home from school.

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“I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today!” (1969)

Follow the Cat in the Hat’s son, daughter, and great-great-grandfather on three magnificent adventures, as told by Cat in the Hat himself. From battles with tigers to the unexpected consequences of a runaway imagination, this is the only book where children can thunk a Glunk and wrestle with King Looie Katz. The illustrations are a unique combination of gouache and brush strokes rather than the usual pen and ink, adding even more uniqueness to a timeless rarity.

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“Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog?” (1975)

“Would you rather be a clarinet, a trombone, or a drum? (How would you like to have someone going boom-boom on your tum?)” In traditional form, Dr. Seuss asks young readers fun, rhyming questions to make them think, ponder, and laugh. The book helps children understand there are so many things they can be, and that they have plenty of time to figure out who they are and where life might take them.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/10-dr-seuss-books-youve-never-heard-of/?utm_source=newsletter_256&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pcodaily&utm_source=Parent+Co.+Daily&utm_campaign=83f735ef56-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_04_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3f341b94dd-83f735ef56-132097649

 

“Do what it takes for as long as it takes to restore a broken life”: Supporting Hagar International, by Deirdre Dobson-Le

Don’t fall into Cambodia’s orphanage trap, Australians told, by Lindsay Murdoch

1451208080232-1Phnom Penh: Tara Winkler, a former NSW Young Australian of the Year, says it is “highly unethical to expose vulnerable children to serious risks in order to engage donors and raise funds”.

Ms Winkler says potential abusers are not being vetted among a high volume of visitors to Cambodia’s 600 orphanages and children’s residential care centres who are allowed to physically interact with children in intimate ways, such as playing games and hugging.

“Even though the majority of people who want to visit centres are good people who only want to help, if they are allowed in to provide love and affection, then the same access is provided to potential predators and sex tourists,” she said.

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Children at a Phnom Penh orphanage. Photo: Lindsay Murdoch

Fairfax Media has reported that strangers can walk uninvited off the street into a Phnom Penh orphanage, where they are greeted in bedrooms with children trained to engage visitors and encourage them to donate money.

A record 47,900 children are living in orphanages and residential care centres in Cambodia, despite research showing that the institutions scar their emotional and personal development through seemingly endless broken relationships, and that they should be living with their families in their own communities.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.smh.com.au/world/dont-fall-into-cambodias-orphanage-trap-australians-told-20151222-glt8ae.html

“The Cellar’s Echo,” by Huberta Hellendoorn: A Child’s Experience of War: Link to a short story broadcast on Radio NZ

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“The child on the staircase imagines a secret place with walls so thick she cannot hear the guns and no windows through which she can see the dead bodies.”

Imagine if you will, a seven year-old girl sheltering with her family in the cellar of their house as war rages in the streets outside. What does she feel?

Huberta Hellendoorn’s The Cellar’s Echo vividly recounts her own childhood experience in Holland during the last days of World War II. And who could have imagined that 50 years later she would make a remarkable re-connection with that fearful past?

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Huberta at kindergarten (“We started school at 6 years old but because my birthday was in October I had to wait until August of the next year before I could start school.”) Photo: Supplied

The first Palm Sunday celebration after the war, which was held on a Saturday). Evidence of war damage still to be seen. (Huberta says this photo may have been taken by a newspaper.)

A photo taken by Huberta’s family GP, Dr JB Thate, whose sons Henk was her classmate.Photo: Supplied

Fear, dread, horror? These are powerful and primitive human emotions all children experience. We all fear the dark, the unknown thing under the bed, scary pirates from a movie. But these are products of our imagination, however real they may seem.

(To read more, and listen to the short story, please follow the link below…)

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/201822985/the-cellar’s-echo

40+ Children’s Books about Human Rights & Social Justice, by Monisha Bajaj

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Young people have an innate sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair.  Explaining the basics of human rights in age appropriate ways with stories and examples can set the foundation for a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and global citizenship.

As a parent to a preschooler and a professor of peace and human rights education, here are my top picks for children’s books that discuss important issues—and that are visually beautiful. Some of the books listed offer an overview of rights; the majority show individuals and organizations past and present who have struggled to overcome injustices. All offer different levels of child-friendly images, concepts and text.

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With my son who is 3, sometimes we will skip certain passages or pages, but introducing him to books like the ones listed below that include characters of different races, religions, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, and other backgrounds at an early age will hopefully lay the foundation for deeper engagement with these texts and issues later on. Lately, he has been making tea in his play kitchen for Martin Luther King Jr. and the other day asked about Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren.

Some of these books are on our shelf at home, others we have found at the library or at friends’ houses.

What’s on your list of go-to books for talking about human rights and social justice issues with your children? Let’s keep the list growing in the comments section below!

**These books should be easily searchable, and I’ve created a book list on Amazon.com atthis link with all the books mentioned in this post.

The Right to Equality & Peace

1. We are all Born Free by Amnesty International

About the basics of human dignity as elaborated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

2. Whoever you Are by Mem Fox

About the common humanity we all share regardless of race, color, religion, nationality, gender, ability or sexual orientation

3. Can you Say Peace?  By Karen Katz

A book about how peace looks in different countries around the world and a celebration of September 21 – the date the United Nations has declared the International Day of Peace

4. A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

A colorful board book with an introduction to speaking up and acting for social change whether related to LGBTQ rights, racial justice, or sustainability.

The Right to Education

5. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

About the landmark 1947 case fought by a Latino family to desegregate whites-only schools in California that served as a precursor to the Brown vs. Board decision in 1954.

6. Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery by Jeanette Winter

About two young advocates for educational rights who were both attacked in Pakistan—Malala Yousafzai and the lesser-known Iqbal Masih. While Iqbal didn’t survive the attack on him, Malala went on to advocate for the right to education for girls worldwide and win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

7. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

About a young woman at the forefront of school desegregation in 1960 after the Brown vs. Board. The book shows her fortitude in enduring harassment from angry mobs to get a quality education.

8. Waiting for BiblioBurro by Monica Brown (author) and John Parra (illustrator)

Inspired by the real-life story of Luis Soriano, who started a mobile library with donkeys carrying hundreds of books over long distances for children in rural areas of Colombia.

The Right to Migrate and Seek Asylum

9. Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat (author) and Leslie Staub (illustrator)

Written by award-winning Haitian-American novelist, Edwidge Danticat, this book is about a family separated by the U.S. immigration system and how love transcends borders and orders of deportation.

10. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

Young Pancho the Rabbit misses his father who has gone north and sets out to find him, but encounters a coyote whose help comes at a high cost. This book introduces the hardships that thousands of migrant families face.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.niahouse.org/blog-fulton/2016/11/3/40-childrens-books-about-human-rights-social-justice

Part of her “Forever Years” spent in a Nazi Death Camp: Miracle that saved a girl from Auschwitz gas chamber, by Paul Ewart

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Yvonne Engelmann was just 15 when she was rounded up with her family and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, one of the network of German Nazi extermination camps operated by the Third Reich in Poland in World War II from 1940-1945.

But it was an unlikely miracle that saw her survive to tell the disturbing tale.

After arriving at the camp, Yvonne was immediately sent to the gas chamber. Thanks to some strange twist of fate, it malfunctioned and she was left naked in the chamber overnight before being freed.

By some miracle, the Nazis kept her alive, and she was sent to sort through the clothes of newly arrived Jews to find any gold or valuables they’d hidden.

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The infamous German inscription that reads ‘Work Makes Free’ at the main gate of the Auschwitz I extermination camp on November 15, 2014 in Oswiecim, Poland. Photo / AP

Her “job” saw her stationed in between the crematorium (which burnt 24-hours daily) and the gas chambers. She ended up being the sole survivor from her entire family, and made a new life for herself in Australia.

“I was 14 and a half when war broke out,” Yvonne tells news.com.au.

“I wasn’t allowed to go to school, I couldn’t walk on the street, I had to wear the yellow Star of David and couldn’t mix with any non-Jewish people. Friends I’d grown up with now totally ignored me, solely because I was born a Jew.

“My father was taken to the police station many times and we never knew if he would come back. One day he returned and his front teeth had been knocked out. We lived in fear constantly – we had no idea what would happen to us in the next hour, let alone in the next day.”

Born in Czechoslovakia to shopkeeper parents, Yvonne was an only child.

“I had the most wonderful childhood that anyone could wish for, but unfortunately it was short-lived.”

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Yvonne Engelman says as a survivor of Auschwitz it is important to perpetuate the memory of those lost and volunteers her time to teach and “tell the world what really happened”. (Photo Source: Sydney Jewish Museum)

In the limbo of uncertainty, things went from bad to worse. Her parents’ shop was taken away and the family was forcibly removed from their home to a cramped Jewish ghetto.

At the approach of her 15th birthday, she and her family were taken from the ghetto – along with hundreds of others – to the railway station where they were piled into dozens of cattle wagons.

“Men, women, children, screaming babies – the journey was too horrific to even describe,” she recalls.

“There was no ventilation, it was hot, an overflowing tin bucket was the only toilet … we were stripped of our humanity.”

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A wedding photo of holocaust survivors Yvonne (nee Engel) and John Engelman, 1949, Australia

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11721357

See also related post:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/born-in-auschwitz-how-one-woman-delivered-3000-babies-during-the-holocaust/

Being Left Out Hurts: Moms, Stop ‘Social Engineering’, by Lisa Barr

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I heard a disturbing story recently from a friend, and I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It went something like this … the camp buses were leaving for an overnight camp in the Midwest, and one Mom somehow had access to get on one of the buses before departure. She literally managed to rope off (save) an entire section for eight 11-year-old girls. She stayed on the bus while the “Chosen 8” boarded and sat in their “designated” seats. Another girl, a new camper, got on the bus, who was the same age, and asked if she could join “those” girls. The Mom responded: “I’m sorry, but it’s reserved” and then she got off.

The clique had been formed and there was no room for “intruders.” (I’ll get to that Mom a little later…)

The new girl, let’s call her Sarah, had been given three simultaneous messages: 1. You are not invited. 2. You are not good enough. 3. This is “The Group” — and you are not part of it, so don’t even try.

One of the main reasons I started my blog GIRLilla Warfare ( www.girlillawarfare.com) was because of the overabundance of Middle School war stories that I had been hearing from so many moms. Same story, different players. And I hate to say this, but the root of this particular social evil, is usually (sadly) initiated by a group of Moms. One of our GW writers pointed out in another blog, that those Moms decide who is IN and who is OUT. It is political, and it is what we at GIRLilla Warfare call “Suburban Social Engineering” which ends up causing many children deep, unnecessary pain.

Don’t get me wrong. Many kids choose to be with whom they feel most comfortable, and that’s totally acceptable. It’s the piece in which the Moms not only helicopter but also patrol kids’ potential friendships that I’m focusing on here.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

Love First: parenting to reduce racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of hate, by Sarah McLaughlin

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it is hard to parent this week.

It’s hard to focus. Difficult to not check my phone for updates and news conferences. Tricky to keep from crying and being otherwise emotionally snarled. It is so hard to stay relaxed about our world and what the future may look like for our children when the news looks like this. This crazy election cycle, the Stanford rapist horror, and now, the deadliest civilian mass shooting in U.S. history.

It’s hard to take. Really hard. I’m tired, and very sad.

I often feel powerless in these situations, but I also I don’t want to do nothing. So I’m going to give blood this week, send money to my local LGBTQ rights organization, write this article, and vote in November no matter how bad things look.

Because I’m also angry. So angry.

But instead of ranting, I’m going to look through my parent education lens and I wonder, “How can parenting differently help?” Well, it seems it always can. It seems no matter what problem sits before me, I can find a way to help through parenting. I try to think of a way to “love first” when it comes to raising children. With that positive action in mind, here are five ways you can parent against misogyny and hate:

  1. Watch for your own prejudices. Talk to your children about privilege and power imbalances. Don’t assume a heteronormative or ethnocentric stance. Talk about race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. When you speak about whiteness, the gender binary, and heterosexuality as if they exist in a vacuum and are “the norm,” (or ignore them completely which sends the exact same message), you perpetuate dichotomy and implicit bias. This leads to seeing differences as “other,” which diminishes people’s value and humanity.
  1. Parent against gender bias. This is still much more socially acceptable for girls than boys. That’s why I wrote about changing the culture of masculinity, and can’t wait to watch this important documentary: The Mask We Live In. Our culture’s gender norms hurt children. In her important book, The Mama’s Boy Myth, Kate Stone Lombardi notes that a growing tide of modern mothers are helping their sons to be stronger by keeping them close and helping them gain important EQ (Emotional Intelligence) skills. These are skills we ALL need to get along with each other.
  1. Model good boundaries. When we set firm limits with children, we’re demonstrating what boundaries should look like. When we respect small growing people, we lay the foundation for consent. When we are clear about where we end and they begin, and allow emotional expression, we help them understand that their strong, messy feelings are A-OK with us. Closeness and intimacy does not necessitate emotional merging and they are not responsible for our feelings.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2016/06/love-first-parenting-to-reduce-racism-sexism-homophobia-and-other-forms-of-hate/