Walking Toward Peace: The True Story of a Brave Woman Called Peace Pilgrim by Kathleen Krull

Cover image for Walking Toward Peace.

Walking Toward Peace: The True Story of a Brave Woman Called Peace Pilgrim by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Annie Bowler (9781947888265)

In a world of war, Peace Pilgrim changed her name and decided to walk 25,000 in the name of peace. She gave up her possessions, her fancy dresses and shoes. She prepared for years, learning about foraging in the wild, practicing good deeds for neighbors, and volunteering for peace groups. She began her walk on New Year’s Day leaving Pasadena, California in simple sneakers and a blue shirt that said Peace Pilgrim. She carried only possessions that fit in her pockets. On her journey, she stopped and talked with everyone. Soon she was asked to speak with school groups and then with other organizations. She relied on strangers for food and would accept a place to sleep too, though she loved to sleep outside under the stars. She crossed from California to New York, but that was just her first pilgrimage. She kept on walking, heading for her 25,000 mile total. Even after she reached that milestone, she kept on walking for peace.

I am so pleased to have a picture book written about Peace Pilgrim. I was one of the lucky people who got to hear her speak at a tiny gathering in central Wisconsin. My family hosted her, driving her to our rural home and sharing time with her. It’s an experience I hold in my heart and continue to be inspired by. This picture book captures her spirit beautifully and shows how one person can make a difference simply by speaking out and walking forth.

The art is compelling, showing the long routes that Peace Pilgrim took, the signature blue apron she wore, and the connections she formed wherever she went. She is truly a national treasure, someone we can all look towards for inspiration on a life well spent in service to peace.

A book that shows that heroes come in all forms. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Flyaway Books.

A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson

A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson

A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson, illustrated by Akira Kusaka (9781541521483)

Grandmother’s bowl is precious for their family. Sachiko and family live in Nagasaki. At dinner, grandmother’s bowl is brought out and filled with food, Everyone bows their heads, pressing their hands together and says “itadakimasu.” Soon war comes to Nagasaki with its noises and the lack of food and other supplies. As the war continues and intensifies, the food in grandmother’s bowl changes too, becoming less and less. The family survives air raids, until one gets through. One of Sachiko’s siblings is killed in the blast. Her family leaves Nagasaki on foot, until they reach a hospital. Her brothers are very ill and both die from radiation from the bomb, other members of her family die too. Ice chips are all that help the survivors quench the burning. Two years later, Sachiko and her family return to Nagasaki and in the rubble of their home find grandmother’s bowl, unbroken and not even chipped. Going forward, ice chips are placed in the bowl on the anniversary of the bombing, watched as they melt away.

This picture book version of the award-winning book for older children, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Journey, allows the story of Sachiko to be shared with elementary-aged children. Stelson manages to pare the story down, writing in poetic lines that capture the horror of war and atomic bombing as well as the wonder of finding anything still intact afterwards. The symbolic nature of the bowl and the ice chips is incredibly moving and repeats in the book so that readers deeply understand the loss and work that must be done.

Kusaka’s illustrations are beautifully spare. She has created touching moments that show the family around their table with the bowl at the center. When the bomb hits, the pages turn from a red burst to blackness. It’s a powerful use of image without words.

A book about war with a strong focus on peace. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Carolrhoda Books.

Review: When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee

When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee

When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee (9780874869729)

The DMZ on the Korean Peninsula separates North and South Korea. It is a space of land where people are not allowed to cross and has become a wildlife sanctuary over the 65 years that it has stood. The DMZ stretches 154 miles from the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan. While there are no soldiers inside the DMZ, there are heavily armed soldiers on either side and miles of barbed wire fencing. In this picture book, the seasons turn in the DMZ and wildlife flourishes each of those seasons. Meanwhile, a grandfather makes the climb up to view the DMZ each season, looking at the land he once lived on. Against the pastoral backdrop of the nature in the DMZ are the movements of the troops on both sides, drilling and maneuvering.

Lee has created a picture book that embraces the complexities of the Korean Peninsula. He shows the impact the creation of the two nations has had on residents and the ongoing constant military presence in their lives. At the same time, Lee focuses too on the wildlife, animals, birds, fish and plants that are finding footing in the DMZ, some of them almost extinct elsewhere. It is a picture book that shows the hope of peace, the importance of space for native creatures and plants, and the impact of war.

The illustrations by Lee are beautiful. They capture the Korean landscape with the mountains in the background, the miles of barbed wire, and the lushness of the DMZ complete with rusting machinery. Turning from one page to the next, readers experience the beauty of nature and then the oppressiveness of the soldiers’ presence.

A complex and intelligent look at war and peace in our world. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Plough Publishing House.

Review: Peace Is an Offering by Annette LeBox

Peace Is an Offering by Annette LeBox

Peace Is an Offering by Annette LeBox, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (InfoSoup)

This picture book explores the concept of peace. It begins with simple examples, ones that are found every day like trips to the beach or giving someone a muffin. Peace is also mentioned as being gratitude for simple things in life and the book goes on to elaborate those with kisses, walks and food. The book transitions into questions about support and peace, asking about staying together, drying tears and listening to stories. It then moves to places you can find peace, whether that is with family or even in the wake of a tragedy or a loss. It finishes with a few ideas of how children can create peace themselves, by doing things like walking away from a fight or comforting a friend.

LeBox does so much more than a list of peaceful ideas here. Instead she moves from one stage to the next, showing not only what peace is but how it can be created and strengthened. Readers will appreciate the focus on small and everyday things that either are peaceful or bring peace. Because of that focus, children will not only understand peace as a larger concept from this book but feel empowered to create it themselves.

Graegin’s pencil, watercolor and digital illustrations have children and families from various backgrounds mixed together. Readers can follow the boy with the cast on his arm from the very first page through the book. While he may not appear on all of the pages, he creates a feel of a larger story happening as peace is explored.

A strong and interesting look at peace and the way its created, this book is both inspiring and peaceful. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Review: The Promise by Nicola Davies

promise

The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

In a gritty city filled with dust and yellow wind, a girl survives by stealing from other poor people.  Her life was just as dust filled and ugly as the city around her.  Then one night, she saw an old frail woman with a fat bag walking along.  She would be an easy mark, so the girl tried to get the bag away from her.  The old woman held on tightly, but eventually asked the girl to promise to plant them and she could have the bag.  The girl promised.  In the bag were only acorns, nothing to eat, no money to spend, but a wealth of trees.  So the girl started planting them one by one, and nothing changed for a long time.  Then green sprouts started to appear, then trees grew and green returned to the broken city.  But the girl had already left, going to other cities that needed a forest too.  Until one night she had her fat bag of acorns with her, and a young person tried to steal it from her.  All it took was another promise and she let them have the bag.

This allegory is lovely.  The setting is hauntingly familiar, a war zone where all that is left behind is the dust and rubble of war and people who cannot escape the city or see a future beyond it.  The transformation of the theft of property into a promise is stunning.  Simple and profound, it is courage, passion and change all wrapped into a single act.  I also love the moments before the trees appear, the anticipation, the question of whether it will work, the effort before the payoff.  And then the fact that the girl leaves to go to other cities, makes this entire story less about her than about her deeds.  It’s one intelligently written book that works so well.

Carlin’s illustrations are done in muted grays and sands, they are images that suck the color out of the day, cover you in their dust.  And yet, they are also filled with hope.  When that first green hits the page, it’s like you can smell it in the air.  Then the transformation that is so colorful, so fresh. 

This radiant allegory would be appropriate for classrooms learning about allegories or about peace.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund

message of the birds

The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund, illustrated by Feridun Oral

The old owl tells the story of Christmas to a gather of birds.  He tells the story of Jesus in the manger and the birds above in the rafters.  The birds heard a song in the baby’s voice, a special song that they would carry through the world.  The robin asked why the birds don’t sing that song anymore, and the partridge explained that people don’t listen.  The little robin suggested that even if they don’t know the language anymore, their hearts could understand it.  The birds talk about whether the message would be heard and understood, and then the robin realizes that children are the most likely to hear the message.  So all of the birds sing the song, spread the message, particularly to children.  And something amazing happens.

I’m never sure with any Christmas book what level of Christianity I’m going to find in them and then what type of message it is going to be communicating.  When this book’s second set of pages had the manger scene, I thought I was in a very traditional Christmas book.  What followed though, was a delightful surprise as the book immediately turned from the traditional Christmas tale to one that is universal, a story of peace.  Westerlund tells the story with a pacing right out of folktales.  Her wise older owl, the inventive young robin are characters that are traditional in the best sense of the word.

Oral’s illustrations have a soft beauty to them.  Throughout his images of the birds, there is thick snow in the air.  The colors are consistently subtle and wintry, tawny browns, creamy whites and deep browns are punctuated only with the colors of the birds and the green of the trees. 

A lovely addition to Christmas stories, this book is beautifully written with rich illustrations.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin

peace

Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin

A simple poem is at the heart of this picture book about peace.  Each line of the poem forms the basis of a page of the book and is also accompanied by other quotes about peace that bring a wonderful depth to the entire read.  As one reads, it almost becomes a chant about peace, a reverberation of the power of peace, and when one finishes that peace lingers for a long time.  When I finished the book, I immediately wanted to do two things:  start all over again and also research some of the quotes and people I had never heard of before.  There are quotes from all of the big names like the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King, Jr.  but wonderfully, there are also quotes from others whose messages are just as powerful.

Halperin’s illustrations are detailed and wonderful.  The images are bright and speak directly to the sorts of peace being discussed.  In those images and in the surrounding quotes, children will see ways that they can personally work for peace on small and large levels.  There is a delicacy to the illustrations that works so well with the subject matter.  They are inclusive, warm and joyful.

As I was reading, I noticed a quote from Peace Pilgrim, a woman I was lucky enough to meet when she was alive.  My family hosted her for a night and she spoke at a small park in rural Wisconsin on the shore of a lake.  It was that sort of person being included in this book that meant so very much to me.  I also think about others searching for the new people they have found in this book and discovering her. 

A lovely and powerful book about peace, this belongs in every library.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Waterloo & Trafalgar by Olivier Tallec

waterloo and trafalgar

Waterloo & Trafalgar by Olivier Tallec

Released October 22, 2012.

In this wordless picture book, two men watch one another over neighboring walls, separated only by a thin line of grass dotted with flowers.   Both sides of the wall are very similar, both men have spyglasses, drinks and umbrellas.  Their days are filled with boredom and suspicion, broken only by the appearance of a snail who visits them both and moments where they bother one another with music and loud noises.  It isn’t until a bird arrives and lays an egg that hatches and runs away that the truth of the conflict is revealed.  Tallec has managed in no words at all to show the fallacy of conflict and the way to peace.

Tallec uses humor here to bridge any divide.  It is mostly physical humor that will have children laughing, successfully mocking the conflict without any words at all.  The snail is a particularly inspired piece of humor that is sure to surprise and please.  So much of this book is about the surprises that life brings with the ending of the book providing the biggest and best surprise of all.  There is a great playfulness that invites readers into this serious situation to a degree that without it would not have been possible.  The wordless nature of the book also makes it particularly suited to a subject of crossing barriers.  I can see using this with people who speak different languages, allowing a depth of discussion that would be unusual with other wordless books.

This book is outstanding.  It speaks to peace without any preaching, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions.  It is a striking and vibrant example of what can be achieved with no words at all.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Book Review: Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace by Anna Grossnickle Hines

peacefulpieces

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace by Anna Grossnickle Hines

Celebrate peace with this book pairing beautiful quilts with poems.  Short poems explore the nature of peace and the myriad of forms it takes.  There is the peace of quiet, of home, of nature.  Then there is the peace that is the opposite of weapons, anger and war.  There is the peace of acceptance, of moments, of prayer.  Then for readers, there is the peace of reading this book.

Each poem itself is a moment of peace, inviting the reader to linger, consider.  The author has created distinct poems that work both as individual poems and as a whole work together.  The flow from poem to poem is very successful, making it difficult to read just one or two poems from this book.

The quilts themselves are done in jewel tones.  They range from strong-lined images filled with words to natural scenes of quiet grace.  Turning the page from one to the next is a journey of color, expression and beauty.

Highly recommended, this book beautifully marries poetry and quilting, resulting in a book that is warm, cozy and lovely.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.

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Check out the book trailer to see some of the quilts and hear some of the poetry: