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Children's LiteratureLearning how their government works is certainly a priority for students at the earliest possible level. Scholastic's "True Book" series takes on the task by bringing middle readers basic information on civics written in brisk, clear prose and illustrated with engaging color photos. Complex concepts are not easy to explain, but this series makes a good beginning; one hopes the very large type is not off-putting for its intended audience, definitely not primary students. In this title, freedom of speech is defined in its many contexts, including speeches, books, magazines, movies, radio, and television, as well as the right to wear symbols, buttons, and clothing to express opinions. The meaning of the First Amendment is explored, along with the necessity of using the right of free speech responsibly; while a colorful page points out that there are many symbols, like memorial ribbons, that identify support for a cause without the use of words. In a final chapter, the thorny question of censorship is introduced, raising many questions that could lead to lively discussion: for example, "Should a recording artist be allowed to sing about illegal drug use?" Although the author does not appear to be an expert on government, a lawyer-consultant from the University of North Carolina is listed. The book contains a useful glossary and a bibliography including some appropriate websites. 2004, Children's Press/Scholastic, and Ages 9 to 12.
—Barbara L. Talcroft