Book 6. The Kites are Flying by Micheal Morpurgo. (This book I ended up not reading to either girls yet because it is really meant for an older audience. I choose to include it in on my list because it exemplifies the desire for peace and will be shared with my girls as soon as they are ready.)
This weekend, my daughters and I took a trip over to the Book Worm Used Bookstore in Powder Springs, GA. As I scanned the shelves for books to read to them about peace, I happened upon this beautiful, unassuming book titled The Kites are Flying by Micheael Morpurgo. Its subtitle was Friendship Knows No Barriers, so I decided to pick it up. (The story, published in the UK, is not readily available in the US.) The author beautifully weaves the tale of a reporter's journey to the West Bank where he meets Said, a young Palestinian boy who spends his days tending to his sheep on a hill while making kites. Said is full of life and hope even thought he no longer speaks after witnessing the tragic killing of his brother by soldiers. When the wind is just right, he releases the kites he makes over the wall with a message of peace written on each kite, sending out seeds of friendship. This story, written following the conflict in 2008, seemed very timely to stumble upon. I will be perfectly honest that the fighting in the Gaza strip seems daunting and unrelenting to me. Here, in the US, there is much talk about the the fighting and who is deemed right or wrong, but there is little talk about the unfortunate victims of the wars- the children. This book brought me to tears with the way the human impact of war is conveyed.
In one part of the book, the reporter is describing how he is there to film life on both sides of the wall, and he details how certain events frame a person's context for peace and war for the rest of their lives:
"It all depends on how old you are. For some people it is the television footage of the assassination of President Kennedy, or the pictures of Neil Armstrong stepping down onto the surface of the moon. For others it might be Nelson Mandela walking out of prison in South Africa, or it might be those planes slamming into the Twin Towers of Manhattan. For most of us there is a happening we have witnessed at an impressionable time of our lives that we shall never forget."For me, my moment in time was indeed the moment the planes slammed into the Twin Towers. I was in college. The early morning class I was in was interrupted by a student urgently letting us know that a plane had hit the towers. Our professor, a Holocaust survivor, strikingly said, "That is impossible. Nothing that evil could happen here." She was wrong. A woman who had thought the worst of her suffering was years in her past was wrong. For this and so many other reasons, when I stumbled upon September Roses at the library, I knew I had to include it in my list.
7. September Roses by Jeanette Winter. For such a tiny book, this retelling of a true act of kindness and heroism following 9/11 leaves a profound impact on the reader. When two women visiting the US for a flower show find themselves stranded after 9/11, a kind gentleman offers his home and a bed for them to sleep in. When they ask how to repay his kindness, he suggests they bring the flowers they brought for the now cancelled convention to Union Square as an offering a peace and condolences.
When my oldest read this book, she came running over to me completely flabbergasted that book had an image of a plane flying into a building. She was shocked and dismayed when I confirmed that it was true. And for her, hearing me tell her about where I was when this tragedy unfolded was like when my mom told me where she was when Kennedy was shot- a history lesson.
8. Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin. Last week, I picked up five books I had reserved from the library specifically for this series of posts. Of those five books, this was by far the favorite for both Miss M and myself. I fell in love with book from the moment I read the authors thoughtful dedication- to the senses and how you can foster peace by using all five senses. The book ponders the question: How can there be peace in the world? And to answer this question, carefully woven into the illustrations are endless magnificent quotes about peace. The entire book is built around the poem written by Lao-Tzu, over 2,500 ago, showing the reader that if there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the heart. The illustrations in this book are intricate, offering hours of perusal, finding something new with every read. If there is one book that I plan on purchasing, it will be this one.
9. What Does Peace Feel Like? by V. Radunsky and children just like you from around the world. I love that a percentage of the net proceeds from the purchase of this book will be donated to CARE, a humanitarian organization that is based out of our city of Atlanta. In this book, the meaning of peace is described through the eyes and imaginations of children. It is delightful to read children describe peace looking like a mother kissing and hugging a child or smelling "like the wind when it comes to your nose when you are sleeping." My favorite page is when the children asked what peace tasted like. Apparently, the vast majority of children said that peace tastes like ice cream. I would have to agree. This book is definitely appropriate for a younger audience, and children will love hearing something explained in their own words.
10. Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz brings a multicultural perspective to the selection of peace books by having children from countries around the world say "peace" in their native language. This book has bright illustrations and sparse text, making it a perfect read aloud for a toddler. My older daughter loved the challenge of memorizing the various ways to say peace, and my youngest enjoyed the pictures. We borrowed this one from the library. I think it would be great to have in a classroom.
11. The Big Book for Peace Edited by Ann Durell and Marilyn Sachs and designed by Jane Byers Bierhorst. I will be perfectly honest that this book was not my favorite, by a long shot. The story behind this collection of stories is almost more compelling than the collection. It was inspired by discussions at a conference where I librarian expressed a need for books about peace. I think the main problem is the age old cliche of judging a book by its cover. I expected, when I borrowed this from the library, to have a volume completely filled will colorful illustrations, like the cover by Maurice Sendak. It is actually a collection of short stories, poems, letters, and illustrations from various authors and illustrators meant to focus on themes of peace. We read several of short stories, but the honestly did not keep my oldest daughter's attention. It may be that this book is better suited for an older audience. I would recommend picking this one up from the library before making the purchase.
12. War and Peace by Child's Play and illustrated by Toni Goffe. No, this is not the classic by Tolstoy. It is instead a very basic description of how disagreements can occur between siblings, families, communities, or countries. I picked this book up from the Book Worm Bookstore. It is simple, easy for a child to understand, and really drives the point home that war can be futile. At first glance, I really liked this book; however there are parts of this book that I felt came off as judgmental and propaganda when I read the book aloud to my kids. It left me feeling a little angst instead of warm and hopeful, like I did when finishing many of the other books. It is overall a good book, I just wish I could go back and edit a few of the word choices made throughout the text.
13. Let There Be Peace: Prayers from Around the World by Jeremy Brooks and Jude Daly. This collection of prayers for peace from all around the world reminds the reader that no matter where you are from, what God you believe in, or what your religious beliefs may be, we all share the common desire for peace. Since so many wars are sparked by differences with religion, I love how this book shows how similar the prayers of different religions can be. I am adding this one to our to-buy list because it contains so many great poems and prayers and the illustrations are sublime.
Thirteen books down, seventeen books to go. I am so excited to share the books I have lined up to read this coming week and the ones I have reserved from the library. If you have started reading my challenge to read 30 books about peace to with my children, make sure to check out the first five selections. And, make sure to check back next Wednesday as we continue our journey reading #30booksforpeace.