The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, Forward by John Green
The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper
illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Review Copy from Abrams Books
With The Golden Rule, Cooper and Swiatowska take the moral principle that can be found in many religions of the world and frame with a story featuring a discussion between an grandfather and a grandson. Peering up at a the words, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," a boy asks his grandfather what it says. As the boy asks questions, the grandfather explains what the moral principal means, sharing that it can be expressed in different ways, listing the many religions, from Christianity and Judaism, to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the Shawnee tribe. From there, the two talk about how to practice the rule, starting with empathy at a personal level, expanding outward to families and countries and the world. Cooper ends her book with the words, "You. It begins with you."
In his brief forward, John Green calls the Golden Rule the, "simplest, hardest, most beautiful rule human beings have ever discovered." It is also one that is not easy to adapt to a 32 page picture book without a little bit of didacticism. In spite of this, I am grateful to have the Golden Rule in a picture book so that I can read it to students and start a discussion. And, while the characters of the grandfather and grandson do not bring much diversity to the book, I do think that Cooper does an fine job expanding on the simple sentence that is the Golden Rule and turning it into a story that gives children something to grab onto. Cooper adds a marvelous layer to her book by incorporating the other religions that have this an an underlying principle, with an author's note that quotes them.
Swiatowska's illustrations have an old world look to them and admirably bring the words to life. In her artist's note she shares that this was a "remarkably conceptual book. Religion tends to dwell in the place of personal philosophy and way of life. It stays close to one's heart. Not an easy subject to broach, especially while making it "safe" for one to look at others' beliefs and appreciate their different opinions and views." In this, I feel like she perfectly sums of the challenge of both illustrating and writing a book like The Golden Rule.