a conversation starter for dreams, worries, hopes and fears

by Amnesty International, cover illustration by Oliver Jeffers, foreword by Michael Morpurgo  - Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2015
ages early childhood and upwards / coffee table, conversation starters, emotional resiliencepowerful livess.o.s.e.

When Louisa was reading the Tomorrow When the War Began series, she had a stay-awake-at-night-worrying fear: the fear of not being able to drive a manual (stickshift) car. 

She was worried that in the event of a war she might not be able to save her family from disaster by driving a manual truck. Her fear was not so much about driving as it was about loss of freedom. We all laughed, even Louisa laughed, but we also realised that freedom comes in many forms. In Louisa’s mind, the freedom to drive a manual truck could lead to much broader and bigger freedoms.

Dreams of Freedom is a stunningly illustrated collection of freedoms from Amnesty International. It’s about those broader, bigger freedoms like freedom to have a home, freedom to have your own ideas, freedom to learn and of course freedom to dream.

Each freedom is accompanied by a quote from someone who could be called a freedom fighter, each in their own way. 


The freedom fighters include:

Anne Frank – whose quote is on the ‘Freedom to have your own ideas’ page: 

"I know what I want, I have a goal,
an opinion ... Let me be myself
and then I am satisfied."

Harriet Tubman - whose quote lets us begin to feel what it is to move from slavery to freedom. She says:

“…There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.” 

(If only all people living in slavery could feel the same glory.)


“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education and I am afraid of no one.”


Jack Mapanje – his quote is on the ‘Freedom to feel safe’ page – something he feels deeply*:

"I feel most at home when it’s raining.
Not too Loud. But when it’s falling slowly.
I like to sit and watch it. Back at home in
Africa it came when the leaves were green.
The world is very rough. I like it when it’s
Gentle and calm and peaceful. It can’t
Always be like that. But that’s what I like."

There are a dozen more moving and thought provoking quotes from people like Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama (of course) and others who may be new to you. (A short bio is included at the back of the book.)

And then there are the illustrations – striking and beautiful. 

Twenty illustrators bring their very best work and they perfectly compliment the quotes. Oliver Jeffers provided the cover art work and inside Peter Sis, Sally Morgan, Chris Riddell and others work their magic. Each page stands alone and each is art gallery worthy.

This is a wonderful coffee table book; the art is captivating and the words have meaning for adults at least as much as - if not more than - for children.

It’s also perfect for starting conversations. The freedoms in the book are macro freedoms, they’re big and encompass everyone. But, as always, macro freedoms are defended through micro actions:

Freedom from fear is not only about broad political freedoms but also about the freedom to attend school without fear of bullying, or the freedom from fear of falling while riding a bike and so on. (The 'Freedom from fear' page quote is from Aung San Suu Kyi, so it's strong and compassionate at the same time.)

Freedom of expression has echoes of totalitarian governments but also speaks to the freedom to draw and write and paint and dance without the need for perfection or even proficiency.

Freedom to have a home reminds us of refugees throughout the world but also of the importance of hearth and home for all children.

Freedom to make a difference is about the right to work that matters, opinions that are heard, and loving relationships as much as it about the right to advocate for political change.

Dreams of Freedom is life enhancing, through its art and words. It’s also empowering and motivating as it draws us into the wider world and values the place of each person in it.

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*Jack Mapanje is a poet from Malawi who was imprisoned for almost four years as a result of his anthology Of Chameleons and Gods (which is out of print but you can buy it on Amazon.) I’ve pre-ordered his newest book Greetings From Grandpa and I also love what he had to say about surviving: "Survive, and you will embarrass the dictator with your life. Die and give up, then he has triumphed. Victory for you is first, survival. Second, if you have the opportunity, tell your story."