Be the Change by Arun Gandhi


Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk (InfoSoup)

Arun lives in a village with his grandfather. The purpose of life in the ashram was to work in service for one another. For Arun, that meant following his grandfather’s rules as well and the hardest for Arun was not to waste. One day, Arun grew tired of his vow not to waste and threw an almost worn out pencil away into the grass. When he asked for a new pencil that night, his grandfather said that he had had a fine pencil just that morning. He went on to explain that the thing of importance was not the pencil but Arun himself. So Arun set off after dark to find the pencil nub in the grass. Still, it would take more teachings from his grandfather for Arun to finally connect wasting nothing with nonviolence as Arun works to define what passive violence actually is.

In a lesson ideal for our time of large consumption and rude political discourse, this picture book is a gentle salve. It speaks of small moments of choice actually shaping our persona and our ideas. One small pencil nub is actually a decision to live without excess and without damaging others. The message is delivered through the curious eyes of a young boy who asks the questions that readers will also have. This is a lovely and accessible look at the teachings of Gandhi.

Turk’s illustrations are lush and patterned. He uses collage at times, fabric folds popping off the page. Gorgeous colors fill nature with purple trees, silver rimmed clouds, the glow of orange understanding after a darkness of shadow.

This second picture book about Grandfather Gandhi is a treat and offers opportunity for discussions about waste and care for others. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.


Review: Gandhi by Alice B. McGinty


Gandhi: A March to the Sea by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

This nonfiction picture book focuses on Gandhi’s 24-day March to the Sea in 1930.  Joined by over 70 others, this was a nonviolent protest of British rule of India and the taxes they had levied on salt.  Told in verse, this picture book explores how the march united the different faiths and castes of India into a common cause.  The book and journey ends with Gandhi scooping salt from the sea, inspiring many others to do the same.  Many were imprisoned for their actions, but they proved too numerous for the prison system and had to be released.  This is a profound and impressive look at a nonviolent action that was noticed around the world and still serves as inspiration today.

McGinty’s verse is free and flowing.  She nicely integrates imagery that is moving and speaks volumes about the situation.  Just one line from when Gandhi reaches the sea: “white salt dusting dark sand.”  McGinty also weaves in the way that Gandhi inspired others to spin their own thread rather than relying on British cloth, how he prayed together with all faiths, truly how he created a single community out of so many different ones.

The illustrations by Gonzalez are exquisite.  His paintings capture the stones on the path, the crowds that gathered, and finally Gandhi by the sea, alone and strong.  All of the images show a man of strength of conviction and a spirit that was unfailing.  They are stunningly evocative of the man and his mission.

This is a top-notch picture book that truly conveys the difference one man can make in the world being nonviolent.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Book Review: Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan


Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan

Rosalind is not a normal British child living in India in 1918.  The other girls her age are shipped back to England for boarding school or spend their days at the club flirting covertly with young English soldiers and swimming in the pool.  Rosalind has never been to England, her mother refused to send her to boarding school because her older brother died in England while at school.  Rosalind doesn’t identify with the other English girls.  Instead her best friend is the daughter of one of the Indian servants and together they make illicit visits to the bazaar.  When Rosalind’s father returns from World War I, he brings with him stricter rules than Rosalind has been living under.  He disapproves of her friendships, forbids her going to the bazaar, and objects to her interest in Gandhi and his politics.  Rosalind’s world changes just as India begins to seek its independence from the British in this fascinating historical novel.

Rosalind is a great protagonist.  She is at odds with her English world, yet it is never pushed so far that her reactions and attitude loses touch with the historical setting.  She is strong, vibrant and a great lens to see India through because she is a bridge between modern readers and World War I.

Whelan creates her world with tiny touches, drawing India for readers in the details.  Her imagery is lovely, emphasizing the impermanence, the beauty, and the restlessness of the story. Yet the story does not drag at all.  This is historical fiction that is relevant, vital and interesting.  The pacing is beautifully done, offering the languid pace of an India heat wave, the time it took to travel at that time, and the desperation of a people.

I am hopeful that we will read more of Rosalind’s story in an upcoming book.  I look forward to seeing where Whelan will take readers next.  Perfect for middle school readers who will enjoy the engaging heroine and the touch of romance.  Appropriate for readers age 10-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

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