Why the People: The Case for Democracy

Why the People: The Case for Democracy cover

Why the People: The Case for Democracy is another in First Second’s line of World Citizen comics, civics-focused non-fiction graphic novels that aim to “equip readers to be active citizens and informed voters.” I’m always a bit hesitant when I pick up one of these titles, as part of me hasn’t shaken the idea that educational works, particularly about politics and citizenship, are going to be too good-for-me to be entertaining.

Thankfully, Why the People uses images and metaphors in a clever way to make the material memorable and to justify the comic format. It’s written by Beka Feathers and illustrated by Ally Shwed.

Twenty-three-year-old Julie and forty-three-year-old Lin are in an airport over Thanksgiving weekend. In amongst the crowds, they discuss different types of governments, considering how they form, what distinguishes them, and how they treat the people. The airport is symbolic, as both involve “decisions about where you go and how you get there…. So we need to think about where we want to go, who we want to bring along, and what we need to take with us.”

Why the People: The Case for Democracy cover

Factors discussed include legitimacy, transparency, fairness, who makes the decisions, and inclusion. The two explore monarchies, dictatorships, governments run by a small group (aristocracies, theocracies, oligarchies), and finally, democracy. Historical examples provide detail and specifics. More questions follow, such as who’s allowed to participate and what kind of democracy works well.

There’s a lot of material covered here, including some deep principles. I found myself rereading the book to make sure I was grasping it. Although much of it consists of statements and dialogue, the illustrations make it enjoyable. And the points are very important, including the need for knowledge and participation. Why the People does well what it sets out to do; it belongs in any library that aims to educate.

(Review originally posted at Good Comics for Kids.)

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