Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Review - An ABC of Equality

An ABC of Equality
by Chana Ginelle Ewing
illustrated by Paulina Morgan
Date: 2019
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 52
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A is for Ability, B is for Belief, C is for Class. All people have the right to be treated fairly, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. An ABC of Equality introduces complicated concepts surrounding social justice to the youngest of children.

From A to Z, simple explanations accompanied by engaging artwork teach children about the world we live in and how to navigate our way through it. Each right-hand page includes a brightly decorated letter with the word it stands for and an encouraging slogan. On the left, a colorful illustration and bite-size text sum up the concept. Cheerful people from a range of backgrounds, ethnicities, and abilities lead the way through the alphabet.

L is for LGBTQIA. Find the words that make you, you.
N is for No. No means no.
P is for Privilege. Be aware of your advantages.
X is for Xenophobia. Ask questions and you’ll see there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Celebrate your Differences, ask more Questions, share your Kindness, and learn to Understand the world.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Sometimes the best intentions can go horribly awry. That's the case here, with An ABC of Equality. Intended for "the youngest of children", this is a confusing book that offers muddled definitions and paints an unrealistic vision of the world.

Starting early on, the book makes many demonstrably false statements such as:

People who identify as women have the same rights as people who identify as men.

It goes on to become even more confusing:

We're all human beings because of abilities like standing, talking, laughing, and pointing your finger.

Sorry, non-verbal kids in wheelchairs who were born without hands. You're not human. Or... are you?

Even if we have different abilities, we're all human beings.

Things don't get any clearer going forward. Many of the definitions for the words seem to be rather utopian. They're the way things should be, not how they actually are. I mean, I'm not asking for a depressing alphabet book, but this just doesn't seem to reflect the reality of our world at all. I'm tempted to think that the whole book was written from a place of privilege. It's entirely possible, given the author's somewhat strange definition of "privilege":

Privilege is when a human being receives benefits and advantages based on a category like gender or class or an ability like seeing and hearing.

Gender or class? Yes, of course gender and class come into play with privilege. But seeing and hearing? Privilege is usually talked about as something that's enjoyed by a smaller group of people. In painstakingly avoiding the words "disability" and "disabled" (they don't appear anywhere in the book), the author seems to be trying to redefine "privilege" when what she really means is "advantage".

The problems don't end there. Some definitions are really vague and/or confusing (A value is an expression of how to live a belief.) or don't make sense at all (A question is the opposite of a belief.). And then we get to S and T. S is for "sex". Unfortunately, "sex" gets conflated with "gender". And T is for "transgender". But then the book implies that non-binary people are transgender. Confused yet?

The icing on the cake is Z, which tries to introduce the gender-neutral pronoun "ze". To toddlers. You know, the kids who still construct sentences like, "Me want cookie." For good measure, "zir" is thrown in there, too, without any explanation.

I would never try to read this to a toddler. Older kids would probably get more out of it, but the age group who might be able to decipher the mangled word definitions would likely think this is a book for babies and avoid it. So I really don't know who this book is going to work for. As an adult, I was annoyed by all the questionable definitions and awkward phrasing. I can only imagine that children would be hopelessly confused. The intention here is good... but perhaps trying to teach these social-justice concepts to toddlers was a little too ambitious.

Thank you to NetGalley and Frances Lincoln Children's Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 1/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 1.33 out of 5

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