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Off to Class by S. Hughes

Hughes, Susan. Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World. Toronto: Owlkids Books, 2011. Print.

The United Nations may have declared education a basic human right, but that does not mean it is accessible to all.  Across the world over 100 million kids are not receiving a basic education. This photographic account will open the eyes and minds of both children and adults who will be amazed and inspired by stories of real children facing challenges in their quests to get an education in some very unconventional situations.

Toronto-based author Susan Hughes has penned a very readable, interesting, and sometimes alarming collection of first-hand accounts.  Divided into 3 sections (‘Working with the Environment’, ‘No School?  No Way!’ and ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All’) Hughes’ book details 23 schools in 14 different countries.  Each school is presented in a 2 page spread with colour photographs alongside regional facts, imagery and often with an interview of a student or adult who has committed to make a difference in these children’s lives. A small colour map indicates where the school is which corresponds to a larger map of the world showing the locations of all schools highlighted.

Many environmental issues are investigated, from schooling after a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, USA and creating a ‘boat school’ in monsoon regions such as Bangladesh.  Schools in refugee camps, caves, tree houses and portable schools made of bamboo are fascinating but tough educational issues are also discussed; poverty, homelessness, gender inequality and the impact of HIV/AIDS.  Many Canadian students will be humbled to read about their peers around the globe.

A section of follow-up resources and a brief index are included. This book is appropriate for school libraries and students in the upper elementary and middle school years.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Debbie Feisst

Debbie is a Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Education Library at the University of Alberta.  When not renovating, she enjoys travel, fitness and young adult fiction.