Publishers: Groundwood Books
Pages: 144 pages(Hardcover)/Black and white photographs.
Genre: Non-Fiction for children
Price: $18.95 CDN
Last year, my daughter S. who is in grade 4, was asked by her school to read the book 'Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak" by Deborah Ellis in order to vote for or against it for the Silver Birch award.
"Three Wishes" is a book about the lives of Palestinian and Israeli children and I remember S. being totally captivated and immensely moved by it. Best of all, she gained such an understanding of this complex international issue . So imagine my surprise when I find out today that the Toronto District School Board has withdrawn the book from library shelves and restricted access to students in Grade 7 or higher.
School boards in York Region, Niagra, Ottawa and Essex County have also either refused to stock the book, restricted access or discouraged its use because some of the Palestinians the author interviewed support terrorism. While it is true that some of the Palestinian children express support for suicide bombings, for instance, 12-year-old Wafa writes: "Killing an Israeli will make me feel glad ... I understand the suicide bombers." But as the National Post points out, if this all-too-prevalent Arab view weren't reflected, "Three Wishes" would be fiction.
S. also liked how Ellis described the creation of the State of Israel. I think it's vital that children understand how Israel came to be- it's imperative that kids understand fully the history and background of the conflict in order for it to make sense to them.
Again, from the National Post, "...Perhaps the most striking thing about the book is that children on both sides provide Ellis with the same basic observation: that the conflict has made them strangers to one another. Danielle, for instance, tells the author "I don't know any Palestinians. If I could meet a Palestinian girl my age, we could play together. That way ... she wouldn't want to blow me up." Michael, the would-be taxi driver, echoes the same thought. Though he lives in Jerulsalem's Old City, he describes Jews as alien creatures: "When I see Jewish boys my age, they look at me, and I look at them, but we don't say anything. I don't know anything about them, and they don't know anything about me...."
The way I see it, by restricting who gets to read this book we are alienating our children from children in Israel and Palestine.
No doubt this book is dark, infact, it can be disturbing in those parts where the kids describe war and when they comment on the stark contrast between their experience and that of sheltered North American children, but, I still think that all kids over 9 years should be allowed to read it. The sooner kids are made aware of children less fortunate then themselves, the sooner the spirit of activism will kick in fueled by empathy for the less fortunate. Having said that however, apparently not everyone agrees with me (big surprise!!!). Here's what Connie Sinclair, parent educator and coach, had to say about the controversy:
"...I think there is a difference between some of the harsh realities in our immediate world that our children HAVE to face and those of the greater world that we chose to expose them to. In parenting our job is to gradually give our children greater responsibility as they grow and to give them greater exposure to the wider world. Yes, kids in Israel and Palestine are exposed to suicide bombers, guns and soldiers and unfortunately they must face that reality. That is not the case with our 8 to 11 year olds, although we have our own set of troubles here. before exposing them to some of the grim realities of the greater world."
Other fantastic books by author Deborah Ellis: