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U.N. conference on child rights spurs good book on their needs

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A study of conflict and dissension during the past century is not complete without considering those who were imperiled but defenseless: the children of the world.

Repeated instances of discord between nations left children homeless, hungry and sometimes without families. Children were often recruited to enter the battles, endangered and unskilled. In some locales, childhood was left behind as the young relinquished school and play to join the labor force. Medical treatment for malnutrition, disease and pain was often lacking.

Peaceful democratic situations did not assure children's well-being either. Abuse, neglect, discrimination and prejudice too often left toxic attitudes in the young lives.

In November 1989, the United Nations outlined 54 principles at the Convention for the Rights of the Child.

The book "For Every Child" (text adapted by Caroline Castle; Phyllis Fogelman Books/Penguin Putnam Inc.; $16.99) adapts 14 of those propositions, which are each illustrated by one of the world's foremost book artists.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu's introduction to the collection of paintings is a plea for more compassionate human rights for children. "Let us do everything in our power to promote the conditions that make the pictures found in this book possible," he writes.

We can make a difference, Tutu says, "if we are vigilant to create a new kind of society, more compassionate, more caring more sharing where human rights, where children's rights are respected and protected."

This poignant art collection confirms the importance of children at play, at rest and well-nourished. There is an international flavor to the treasury, and two American award-winning artists are represented. Jerry Pinkney's sensitive watercolor art portrays the right for "every one of us to have a name and a land to call our own." Rachel Isadora's vibrant two-page spread depicts multicultural children and the principle of nondiscrimination. "Whoever we are, wherever we live, these rights belong to all children. . . . Anywhere and everywhere in the big, wide world, these are the rights of every child."

Zimbabwe-born Ken Wilson-Max's bold acrylic paintings characterize joyous children with the resolution to "keep our families together, and if we have no family, look after us and love us just the same."

French artist Philippe Dumas' life-size pastels emphasize the resolution to "do your best to let everyone know that, whoever we are, wherever we live, these are the rights of every child."

Following an exhibit at the United Nations, the illustrations from "For Every Child" will tour cities across the United States during 2001.

Penguin Putnam will donate proceeds of sales of each copy of "For Every Child" to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

E-MAIL: marilou.sorensen@worldnet.att.net