Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Letters to a Prisoner

Goldstyn, Jacques (Author/Illustrator)
Owlkids 2017. 44 pages
First published: 2017
ISBN: 9781771472517 (hardcover)
Original language: French
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, conflict, layout, panel arrangement, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Inspired by Amnesty International’s global Write for Rights campaign, this compelling picture book relays an important reminder: ordinary people have the power to provoke positive change.

Told entirely through pictures, the story transcends language barriers, thus appealing to readers worldwide. It begins with a man and his daughter joining a peaceful protest. All smiles, the little girl carries a red balloon to match the symbol on her dad’s placard, but things soon turn ugly when father and daughter encounter an army of blue cops.

Fully decked out in riot gear, police attack the red-balloon protesters with bats. A heartbreaking image captures the girl’s distress as her father is arrested and hauled off to prison. The day’s cruelty is further magnified when an officer shoots the girl’s balloon, bursting her innocence.

In solitary confinement, the father’s hopes for freedom are seriously tested by the passage of time, yet his spirits lift when a bird and a mouse begin slipping him messages of support from people on the outside. Soon, letters stream in from all over the world, ultimately leading to the man’s release, proving there is strength in numbers. Cheerful watercolours depict letter writers from every walk of life—a cowboy, a sailor, a clown, a mother and a child—driving home the message: anyone who cares can make a difference.

  •  

    Discuss when it is a good idea to speak up. Can speaking up make a difference? Can it get you in trouble?

  •  

    Look closely at the illustrations. Choose some images that convey a lot of information. Redraw them and write about what you can infer.

  •  

    Research people who have been arrested for peaceful protest. In your reader-writer’s notebook, write about them, explaining what they stood for. How do they inspire you?

  •  

    Read the author’s note at the back. Research Amnesty International’s Write for Rights letter-writing campaign. Participate in this annual event by writing a letter to give hope to a prisoner of conscience.

  •  

    Based on the cover, predict what the story will be about.

  •  

    After reading and realizing this is a wordless book, discuss the power of words versus the power of silence. Would the message be as strong if the book had dialogue?

  •  Imagine you are this dad’s child. Write a letter of encouragement to him.
  •  

    The book is dedicated to Raif Badawi and his family. Badawi has been imprisoned because he wrote articles that his government did not allow. What is freedom of speech? Can we write what we want in Canada? What about in other countries?

  •  

    How can you and your peers help political prisoners who are jailed because of their beliefs? Generate two or three feasible ideas, then share and discuss them in a small group.

  •  While you read, take note of how the protagonist feels as the story progresses.
  •  

    Select several pages from the first half of the book and add text to them, in the form of narration or dialogue.

  • To use creativity
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Social Sciences