If Sheree Fitch's latest book were simply a collection of poems, then she would deserve and receive fair praise. The poems range from being playful and humorous to serious and sombre. The poems also range in strength; some are expressive in rhyme and meaning while others are decidedly weak. Children who giggled through Monkeys in the Kitchen
will find a few new poems with the familiar upbeat tempo and the surprising rhymes, words, and sounds that Fitch fans enjoy.
Some of the praise for If You Could Wear My Sneakers should go to Darcia Labrosse for her illustrations. The watercolours are lovely; the animal characters are expressive and spirited.
The problem with this book is that it was a far too ambitious and perhaps impossible project. At its inception, this was to be a collection with a purpose. Produced in association with UNICEF, it has crossed a line from simply being a children's book and has entered the educational realm, where sharp-eyed educators-in the widest possible sense-scrutinize such self-proclaimed educational tools. The premise is that the fifteen poems illuminate fifteen of the fifty-four articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. A noble goal.
After the poems, the book concludes with a quiz, where the reader is asked to match each poem with the UN right it is supposed to illuminate. I found myself raising an eyebrow at most of the "correct answers".
For example, "The Way It Is" is a good poem about a sloth who justifies his existence to critics by stating that he is what he is, clearly making the point that there's nothing wrong with that. A quick check with the quiz answers reveals that Fitch has matched this poem with Article 23: "Disabled children have the right to special care to enjoy a full life dignity." Since when is the sloth a disabled animal? Is there a list of Disabled Animals out there?
Inaccuracies and ineffective associations between poems and rights make If You Could Wear My Sneakers an inappropriate tool for teaching about the rights of children.
Bern Martin spends time every day with children and books, at home, or at the local library in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.