Swords to Plowshares by Lisa Weaver

Swords to Plowshares

The Creation of John P. Klassen's Mennonite Central Committee Medallion
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Weaver (Praying with Our Feet, 2005) and Huston’s whimsically illustrated book has serious messages about peace and faith as they describe the unique history of a medal for peace.

This all-ages book explains how John P. Klassen created the Mennonite Central Committee Medallion, here told through the eyes of a fictional young boy named Isaak. In the 1920s, Isaak witnesses turmoil in what is now Ukraine, though he eventually sees violence transform into peace—sometimes literally. In the early 1900s, including during the Russian civil war that devastated many places and lives, Mennonite workers offered aid and farming supplies, operating as the unified Mennonite Central Committee after 1910. Seeing them do their work, Isaak helps Klassen—a real historical figure who later taught at Bluffton University, a Mennonite institution—create a way to honor their contributions. Isaak helps Klassen collect scattered bullets in the village, then melt them to create a lead medallion depicting an aid worker giving food to children. The medallion—of which one of the originals can be found at the Kauffman Museum in Kansas, with photos here—stands as a reminder that charity can be found in even the direst times. While touching on virtues of the Mennonites and the value of faith, the book doubles as an introduction for young readers to the history of the region and the healing power of art. It is sure to spark conversation in the classroom. Huston’s textured, colorful illustrations help make the narrative easy to follow for lap readers.

A worthy look at peace.

Publisher: The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton University
Program: Kirkus Indie
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