Using the United Nations International Day of Peace as a launching pad, the nursery-school set travels around the globe to learn how to say the word “peace” in 11 languages. With vibrantly colored patterns softened by soothing rhythmic lines, a detailed, full-page childlike scene depicting a community in a particular country sits adjacent to a big, bold portrait of one of its young citizens. These inviting representations serve as the touch point for preschoolers who may see themselves—or their classmates—in Meena of India, Carlos of Mexico or Chinese gal May. Peace is an abstract concept, but populist picture-book purveyor Katz makes it concrete by noting that children everywhere want to live, learn and play in safety. Best suited for one-on-one sharing or for small groups to pore over with a caregiver, this timely primer on nonviolence works in its simplicity. (pronunciation guides, note, map) (Picture book. 3-6)
Archbishop Tutu shares his philosophy in simple but eloquent words intended for young children, accompanied by Pham’s appealing illustrations of sweet-faced children of different ethnicities. A brief introduction about a child’s dreams segues into a lyrical look at what God’s dreams must be: for a world of sharing, caring, forgiveness and tolerance of differences. These basic but important concepts are presented in easy-to-understand terms, such as the twin needs to apologize and forgive after an argument. The message that we are all brothers and sisters despite our differences is clearly conveyed in the tale, which concludes with a crowd of smiling children creating a rainbow with their own handprints. An extra-large trim size and big, bright illustrations make this a fine choice for reading to a group. The noteworthy illustrations include a touching spread showing children of different faiths all praying in their own way and attractive endpapers with a patchwork of African patterned fabrics. (Picture book/religion. 3-8)
Without a doubt, one of the oddest monuments of Europe is the statue of the Manneken Pis (“Peeing Boy”) in Brussels; here he stars in a decidedly odd original anti-war fable. The story is simple: long ago in a beautiful town lived a little boy with his doting parents. Life is wonderful until unnamed enemies (armored green men with long tongues and lots of teeth) lay siege. In the confusion, the little boy becomes separated from his parents, and goes up onto the town wall to find them. “Poor little boy, he was scared. He needed his mother and father. But more than that he needed . . . / to pee.” So, spectacularly, he urinates on the combatants. At first struck dumb by the golden stream, everyone then begins to laugh and the war ends. The appealingly childlike illustrations depict soft-edged, rather blobby people in vaguely medieval dress. The emotional track of the story is charted by the happy pastels and flowers that are replaced by black backgrounds, cannon, and chaotic compositions—to be replaced again by flowers at the end. The text is ingenuous in the extreme, avoiding any real analysis of the conflict or its source—“Maybe they were jealous that the town was so beautiful”—which is entirely in step with a child’s level of comprehension of such large-scale violence. The brilliantly illogical simplicity of its resolution is also directly in tune with small children and their fascination with all things potty—much as it may take their parents aback. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to pull this very odd offering off—but Radunsky (Table Manners, 2001, etc.) manages to do just that. (Picture book. 3-7)
The African-American narrator of this apostrophic verse has heard the story of Sadako's thousand paper cranes; the crane, traditional Japanese symbol of longevity, represents her hopes for peace, both in her violent urban milieu and the world. A dream flight (through old-growth forests, over whales, and above the homeless on city streetsmany concerns are pulled in here) culminates in an apotheosized vision of Sadako in a cloud of paper cranes. The cotton-candy colors of this spread contrast with the menacing purples and blues and large expanses of black in the city scenes and the flaming orange-red and yellows of a blast site. Adults may wish to compare Hamanaka's pictorial uses of the crane with Ed Young's Sadako (1993), the picture book abridgement of Coerr's Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (1979). Despite rather muddled imagery and a labored, intermittent rhyme scheme, readers will respond to the earnestness of its sentiments, especially those who know Coerr's book. They may question Hamanaka's statement that Sadako folded a thousand paper cranes; as the story goes, Sadako died before she was done, and other childrenin tributecompleted her work. (Picture book. 8+)
Living history is not always sweet, but Winter, who has made beauty from contemporary horror in September Roses (p. 815) does it anew. Alia Muhammad Baker was the chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq, a meeting place for many and quite near one of Basra’s best restaurants. When war comes to Basra, Alia saves the books in the only way she can see: She takes thousands of them to her own home, to the homes of friends, and to the restaurant next door. Alia saved 70 percent of her collection before the library was firebombed and destroyed. Winter tells this story in simple, clear declarative sentences. Her beautiful acrylic-and-pen illustrations are filled with the rose and violet, blue and gold, russet and orange colors of the desert, and she uses pattern to great effect in the shelves and piles of books, in the dark array of planes and bombs over the city, and in the parti-colored headscarves and clothing of the people of Basra. Created with strength and courage, like Alia’s devotion to the books in her charge. (author’s note) (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)
The pointlessness of war, powerfully told despite having no words.
Two squat soldiers, one dressed in electric blue, the other in fluorescent orange, spy on each other from across a field by peering through their spyglasses. (Clever circle die cuts in the cover show readers exactly what each soldier sees through his lens.) The dumpy, little men sit, watch and wait. An incident involving a small snail escalates into a huge argument, but even then, they don’t attack. They just yell and shake their fists (black cartoon scribbles enliven the fury). Seasons pass, and snow and rain pour down, but still, the men watch and wait. Until one day a bird, half blue and half orange, finally forces them to come face to face. The two soldiers, Waterloo and Trafalgar, realize they are not as different as they thought. In an added twist, when the perspective pans out to show the full surroundings, readers gain a delightful, surprising insight. Tallec excels in expression; every movement, from scrunched-up anger to an exuberant grin, is meticulously planned, and these funny little soldiers show a wide range of emotion.
It is a truism that children represent the future—engaging stories about conflict resolution are necessary, and this one stands out.
(Picture book. 5-10)
Through simple words and pictures, this thought-provoking offering suggests some interesting answers to the titular question. Radunsky opens with children, adults, and one dog saying “peace” in different languages and ends with a listing of 192 of them from around the world. In between, his signature style on double-paged spreads asks how peace smells, looks, sounds, tastes, and feels. The vibrant gouache paintings work well with the text, created by Radunsky and a group of eight- to ten-year-old children from The Ambrit International School in Rome. Peace looks “like a cat and a dog curled up together in a basket,” it sounds “like everyone’s heart beating, making one big sound together” and it tastes “like your favorite food times two.” Perfect for sharing with children of all ages who will want to share their own visions of peace with each other, this is a soothing remedy to headlines of war and terrorism. (Picture book. 4-8)
How do you answer the question implied in this title? Beautifully, powerfully and truthfully, as Walker and Vitale demonstrate in language and images accessible even to very young children. The lines, “War has bad manners / War eats everything / In its path / & what / It doesn’t / Eat / It / Dribbles / On:” float over an image of a once-beautiful old city, now blasted and sere. War destroys unthinkingly—from bright green frogs to ancient sculpture, from pumas and parakeets to blessed and needful water. War is blind to nursing mothers and boys with donkeys. Walker’s language is perfectly plainspoken without being coarse, laid over Vitale’s jewel-like color and riot of images from the sublime (a village by a lake) to the scary (a poisonous green fog covering a bright forest). Disembodied eyes, bombs like darts, paint sculpted into terrifying monster shape, echo and reinforce the strength of the language. Children deserve to see this, and adults need to be ready to discuss it with them. (Picture book. 5-10)
A wordless condemnation of violence and war—their often absurd origins and always grim aftermath. It all starts with a frog lazily enjoying the smell of a flower. A mouse happens along and snatches the flower. The frog, with two friends, retaliates by swiping the mouse's umbrella. Things escalate as additional frogs and mice enter the fray, the tools of battle grow more sophisticated, and full-blown warfare erupts. In the end, the terrain is wasted and everyone's the loser. Popov captures all the ugliness of war: the smoky gloom of armies on the march, the blank look of the soldier in battle, the scary machines of war. The last page of this artful cautionary tale gives further pause. There sits the frog with a shattered umbrella, the mouse with a wilted flower—their pathetic spoils. Still they do not acknowledge one another; more dazed than transformed, they look capable of taking up arms again at any moment. Provocative. (Picture book. 5-8)
Hines’ art is always beautiful; she illustrates her work with astonishing quilts, reproduced full-size, in a variety of designs: In this work she uses black-and-white reverse patterns, mosaic-type images, photographs made into quilt patterns and lots and lots of gorgeous color. She uses this abundance of styles in her poems, too, offering acrostic, haiku, rhymed and free verse as well as concrete poetry (“Peace. Pass it on,” repeats over and over around a quilted globe, held by quilted hands of many colors, including orange and purple). In “What If?” she muses, “What if guns / fired marshmallow bullets, / and bombs burst / into feather clouds / sending us into fits / of giggles? What if / we all died / laughing?” It is very difficult to write about peace for children—or anyone else—without sinking into bathos or pure sappiness, and this collection doesn’t always rise above, but these missteps are small. Brief paragraphs about various peacemakers at the back, including two children (Samantha Smith, 1972–1985, and Mattie Stepanek, 1990–2004), tether the poems to reality; her description of making the quilts and the support of her quilters’ group is wonderful in and by itself for both children and adults to read. A poem about two sisters made to stand nose-to-nose until they stop fighting and dissolve into giggles is a truly fine idea—wonder if it would work with world leaders? (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)