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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Concept of citizenship, a good citizen. Good citizens help neighbors, write letters, change laws. How to manage and navigate conflict. Kids shown reading newspapers.
"We’re part of a society." It's important to help others. "The world is more than you." Everything you do makes an impact. A citizen can help a neighbor, join a cause, write a letter, help change laws. Our society's diverse, and all can participate.
Positive Role Models
The kids pictured are diverse, including two kids with Afros, another brown-skinned girl in a hijab, a kid who might be a boy wearing a tutu. The kids plant trees, help neighbors, build things together, work out differences, bring light to the darkness. Text directly advocates positive behavior.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that What Can a Citizen Do? is written by Dave Eggers, well-known author for adults, who's ventured into kids' books before with titles such as Her Right Foot, also a collaboration with illustrator Shawn Harris. This book's a rhythmic, rhyming call for kids to be good citizens. The kids pictured are a diverse crew that includes African Americans and a girl in a hijab. It promotes values of helping your neighbor, and "doing something for another," not always thinking of yourself.
Is It Any Good?
This rhyming civics lesson asks the timely and important question "What in the world can a citizen do?" -- and provides some concrete suggestions. Many of the examples in What Can a Citizen Do? are clear and simple. For instance, kids work together to build a tree house, plant a tree, and right an upturned turtle. Author Dave Eggers provides some direct instruction, such as, "A citizen can write a letter. A citizen can help change laws." And he reminds kids, "We're part of a society," so "Do something for another." In places, though, the text can feel murky, as when it says we're "a land of latticed people," or claims that "a citizen can be a bear" (when a bear joins their group). And in the interest of rhyme, it sometimes lapses into cliché: "A citizen should care and care," and society is "full of joy and pain."
The art, collage and mixed media, is fun to look at and depicts a diverse group of kids. Illustrator Shawn Harris smartly gives the kids one project that carries them from start to finish. But because the concepts in the book can be abstract, it would help if the art, too, were more solidly concrete, more clearly illustrative, throughout.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.