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If You Could Wear My Sneakers!

by Sheree Fitch, Darcia Labrosse, illus.

Award-winning performance poet Sheree Fitch (author of There Were Monkeys in My Kitchen and Mable Murple) has teamed with illustrator Darcia Labrosse to produce a book of poems about children’s rights. Peter Gzowski provides the foreword and it’s produced in association with UNICEF, so it has a strong marketing angle.

It’s glossy and colourful with 15 delicious poems in it, some nonsensical, some singsong, all silly. The cartoons are brightly silly, although I wish the gnus, ewes, and cockatoos didn’t have such monotonous facial expressions. The serious part of the book comes at the end, when readers are asked to match each poem with its appropriate article from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, although some of the connections between the poems and children’s rights seem contrived.

“There was a giraffe/Who had a laugh/Stuck half-way down his throat/No matter how hard he tried/He could not giggle it out…” begins the poem that matches with the UNICEF Right of the Child that says: “Children have the right to the highest standard of health care attainable.”

Another poem called The Stinky Truth asks: “‘What do you think? Do you think that I stink?’ Said the skunk ‘Do you thunk that I smell?’ ‘Well, I think that you stink/But I think for a skunk/That you smell/Incredibly/Well.’” It’s great fun but I’m not sure how much it relates to Article 13: Children have the right to obtain and share information, and to express opinions.

This book is like a diving board: it looks like the regular thing (a cheery book of verse) until it is read to a group of kids and then some wonderful leaping begins. The goofiness of the poems and lightness of the art will put young readers at ease and inspire discussion. Less likely to work as a read-alone experience, this book belongs in an adult-led group where the poems will spark kids to laugh and talk, think and care.