We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures
Forewords by John Boyne and David Tenant, illustrated by Peter Sís (Cover) et al.
(Amnesty International (UK)/Frances Lincoln, 2008)
Fifty years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a set of 30 articles which enshrine the rights of every human being on the planet. In We Are All Born Free, Amnesty International has simplified the language of all 30 articles to make them accessible to young people; and a glittering array of internationally renowned illustrators has been brought together to convey a powerful visual interpretation of the text.
Of the 30 rights the Declaration upholds – which “belong to everybody, whatever our differences” – some could be hard for young children to understand: however, the illustrations bring the different statements well within their sphere of comprehension – whether through humor, like Ole Könnecke’s cat and mouse trial or Chris Riddell’s clumsy dragon, representing respectively the rights to recourse to the law for help and to “proper order” (“so we can all enjoy rights and freedom in our own country and all over the world”); or through imaginative interpretation, like Debi Gliori’s school lesson based around an algebraic use of the Cat and the Fiddle. Even if some readers do not know the actual nursery rhyme (and We Are All Born Free has so far been translated into 30 different languages), they can hardly fail to be inspired by the exuberance of the freedom to imagine encapsulated here. Korean artist Hong Sung Dam, who was himself an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience for four years because of his artwork, provides a beautiful image of a literal flight to freedom – a boy on the back of a large, white bird. The only truly disturbing image is Jane Ray’s bedraggled and red ink-stained rag doll, which accompanies Article 5, “Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us”. It certainly gets the message across.
Reading this book at home and at school will help children to learn tolerance, a concept eloquently expressed in Satoshi Kitamura’s depiction of four different hands crossed in friendship: “We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together”. These hands, of different ethnicities, stretch across geographical and cultural boundaries – and perhaps also across differences of age and gender.
We Are All Born Free challenges all its readers, young and old alike, both to play an active part in working towards a world where everyone is able to live according to their Human Rights, and to consider the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with these rights. Its far-reaching and perfectly communicated message makes it a publication which should find its way into every child’s hands for many years to come.
Royalties from We Are All Born Free are being donated to Amnesty International.