Tell Me Why: How Young People Can Change The World

Paperback | April 14, 2009

EditorEric Walters

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A powerful, inspiring book for any young person who wants to make a difference.

“I just want to know: why do you think that people treat each other the way that they do? Is there something that happened to you that made you want to help people? And, finally, what, if anything, do you think one kid can do to make a difference?”

Responding to the searching questions of a thoughtful thirteen-year-old, more than twenty-five influential, inspiring figures – including Canadians Roméo Dallaire, Robert Munsch, Marc Garneau, Lynn Johnston, Rick Hansen, and many others – have shared their wisdom, their experience, and their convictions about how to counter suffering, cruelty, and darkness. Eric Walters also profiles five amazing young people who have already found ways to help. They have raised money and awareness for causes such as cancer research, homelessness, the plight of AIDS orphans, and global humanitarian crises. Their stories show us that people of any age can create meaningful and important change – they just need to make the decision to start.

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From the Publisher

A powerful, inspiring book for any young person who wants to make a difference.“I just want to know: why do you think that people treat each other the way that they do? Is there something that happened to you that made you want to help people? And, finally, what, if anything, do you think one kid can do to make a difference?” Respondin...

Eric Walters’s young adult novels have won numerous awards, including the Silver Birch, Blue Heron, Red Maple, Snow Willow, and Ruth Schwartz Awards. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario. Visit his website at

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8.2 × 5.5 × 0.61 inPublished:April 14, 2009Publisher:PRH Canada Young ReadersLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385667205

ISBN - 13:9780385667203

Appropriate for ages: 11 - 14

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Extra Content

Read from the Book

INTRODUCTIONSometimes you know where a book begins and sometimes you don’t. I know where this one came from.As a children’s writer, teacher, social worker, and parent I have a great deal of contact with children and young adults. I have watched as they grow older and become aware of the larger world around them. Part of this awareness is learning about events that are often tragic – events that confuse and disturb them.As an author, I travel across the country speaking to hundreds of thousands of young people. Many of my books have dealt with difficult subjects including genocide (Shattered ), terrorism (We All Fall Down), street kids (Sketches), and children affected by war (When Elephants Fight). After these presentations, kids would often ask me questions about these situations, about human nature, about why people treat each other so badly, asking about good and evil, and what if anything they could possibly do to make an impact. I always tried my best to answer them. Sometimes, though, it felt more like I was just giving excuses than answers. These young people genuinely wanted to know the answers. And, quite frankly, so did I.One night I woke up around three in the morning. I was thinking about some project or idea. I don’t even remember what it was, but what I do remember that was in the middle of the night I had doubts. After sitting and thinking and worrying and wondering I sat down at my computer and wrote an e-mail to my friend Chandra – I feel so honoured to even say that – my friend, Chandra. I needed to talk to somebody. I needed advice. I needed his wisdom.I told him about what I was working on, what I was doing, my worries and concerns about whether I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Satisfied, feeling a little better just putting down my thoughts, I sent the e-mail and got ready to go back to bed. Three minutes later I got a reply – it wasn’t three in the morning in India where he lives and where he runs his orphanage.His answer was simple. He told me that he had faith in the plan, and more importantly, in me and my ability to complete it. He told me he had no doubts and that neither should I. And because he said it, I knew it was right.This is where this project started. I was blessed to have somebody like him to turn to – a person not only of compassion and dedication, but wisdom. I just wished that other people – especially children – had somebody like him to write to.I started to wonder about how people would respond to a letter – a letter asking the questions kids were asking me. I worked with a group of seventy Grade 7 and 8 students at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Public School in Oshawa. They helped me to craft a letter that reflected the questions young people needed to ask. And while I made up Jo, the questions that Jo is asking are genuine and real.I approached a diverse and eclectic group of individuals from the world of politics, entertainment, science, sports, and the arts. From astronaut, to opera singer, to cartoonist, to tight rope walker, to basketball player, to politician, this is a group that spans the range of human activities.While they come from very different worlds they all share the same common trait. These are people who not only care, but have actively worked to make a difference. They are all genuine heroes.Still trying to seek answers, I sought out the wisdom of some of my other heroes. I went back through time to find the words of wisdom of the greatest minds, the greatest humanitarians in history. Contained in this book are quotes from Socrates, Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Buddha, Mohammad, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa – quotes that speak directly to the questions posed by Jo.The final part is not looking back in time, but toward the future. One of Jo’s questions is, “What, if anything, do you think one kid can do to make a difference?” Profiled are five young people who are not only talking about making the world a better place, but are making the world the better place. These young people are the ultimate role models. I hope in their deeds other young people will be inspired not only to think, but do, that they will understand that greatest is contained within each of us – that to quote from the letter of one of the respondents, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, “It is important to remember that within each Mother Teresa, within each Mahatma Gandhi, within the heroes among us who have given of themselves to make a difference in the world, there is a small boy or girl who began by asking these same very valuable questions.”Peace,Eric Walters