TitleHope on the Horizon: A children’s handbook on empathy, kindness and making a better world.

Author: Onjali Q. Raúf

Illustrators: Isobel Lundie and cover illustration by Pippa Curnick

Pages: 288

Publisher:  Wren and Rook an imprint of Hachette Children’s Group

Publication date: 31st May 2022

Themes: the power of kindness, empathy, hope, activism, community, role models and making a difference.

Each time we see the news there are stories of gross injustices, rising homelessness and people experiencing poverty, the mistreatment of First Nations peoples, refugees fleeing their homes  and risking their lives to make a perilous journey in the hope of securing a better life, the incomprehensible devastation caused by wars, the effects of climate change to name a few. All of this bleak news is overwhelming, but feeling empowered by knowing that a difference can be made, can help people feel a sense of hope. But how? How can one person really effect change that is going to make any sort of difference and make the world a better place?

Hope on the Horizon: A children’s handbook on empathy, kindness and making a better world is an impactful, illustrated, non-fiction book that empowers readers to not only value their differences, but realise the power these bring and how they can be used to make a positive difference in the world. In this life affirming book Onjali shares her favourite stories, fictional characters as well as real life people; observations and lived experiences to detail, in a highly accessible, sensitive and engaging way, ten practical behaviours to find hope, be a force for change and make a difference.

The power of story has been a gift to Onjali. She fell in love with many books in her childhood and they left an indelible mark on her. Many of her favourite fictional characters shaped some of her ideas about what it means to be a s/hero. She concludes that these legendary heroes she read about and some she saw on television share a set of qualities. These characters were the catalyst for Onjali to reflect on the world around her and raise questions to make better sense of the world. These questions led Onjali on a mission to seek answers and give her further insight into the world.

This book is written in a friendly conversational tone with much banter and begins with Onjali’s introduction followed by eleven questions for the reader. These questions have been designed to inspire the reader to reflect on their concerns about the world. Onjali then goes on to share information about herself in a light hearted way that is both informative and deeply inspiring.

While this book gives readers a launch pad to be a force for change in a non-didactic way, it emphasises that there is no one size fits all approach as we are all wonderfully unique. Onjali also encourages readers to be curious and seek out stories to learn from others.

There are ten chapters which each focus on a way of finding hope, creating change and making a difference. The format for each chapter is similar. Each one begins with a definition of a key word (such as hope, warrior, unite),  an entertaining personal reflection from Onjali’s past and a link to a book title, or television show, such as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Tintin, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardobe and Wonder Woman to name a few examples. There is no need to be concerned if you are unfamiliar with the stories and characters Onjali mentions as she does a brilliant job of succinctly explaining these and deftly bringing them to life in an exciting way. She examines the qualities a fictional character displays and creatively and cleverly links these to attributes needed to be an activist. For example, Superman’s x-ray vision which as Onjali explains is a vital skill courageous activists need as it requires delving beyond perceptions and assumptions to gain a true and deeper understanding of people and their situations by not judging, listening to their stories, struggles and experiences. Onjali further strengthens her analogies by discussing the many people she has worked with who exhibit the same traits as the characters and explains how they make a positive difference in the world. She includes a call to action in her chapters whereby the reader is given inspiration to complete achievable tasks to make a difference. Then there is a section where Onjali gives an award to a real life person that is most like the fictional character discussed in the chapter, in terms of the common qualities they possess and make the world a better place. These are fascinating stories about influential change makers, some well-known and others lesser known, but all making a massive and inspiring difference in our world. All are courageous, selfless, visionary and tireless in their activism, overcoming challenges and rallying support for their causes. People such a Nelson Mandela, Adele, Marcus Rashford and the youngest in the book, Ayaan Moosaand and Mikaeel Ishaaq two best friends, aged seven whose actions inspired others around the world to raise money for refugees in Yemen.

At the end of the book is a reading and viewing list of the titles and shows Onjali mentioned, a comprehensive glossary and information containing resources and websites for charity organisations explored in each chapter.

This book is the launch pad that gives readers the toolkit to empower them to use their wonderfully unique passions to be activists. It inspires children to use kindness, empathy and compassion to be the change.

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