Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, Authors
Evan Turk, Illustrator
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Biography, Mar. 11, 2014
Themes: Arun Gandhi’s memories of living with his revered grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Opening: “We arrived at Sevagram, Grandfather’s service village, dusty and dirty. Father insisted we be taken straight to Grandfather’s hut. Bapuji sat serenely on the floor. I hung back, afraid to be in his presence, but Ela, took my hand and we rushed to him. We bent to touch his feet, a sign of respect.”
Book Jacket Synopsis: Arun Gandhi lives with his family in Grandfather Gandhi’s village, where the days are thick and hot. Silence fills the air–but peace feels far away for young Arun. When an older boy pushes him on the soccer field, Arun’s anger fills him in a way that surely a true Gandhi could never imagine. Can Arun ever live up to the Mahatma? Will he ever make his grandfather proud?
Why I like this book: It is a true story that Arun Gandhi worked on for 10 years with Bethany Hegedus about his own intimate relationship with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi. It is an endearing story about a boy’s memories of his grandfather and his mixed emotions about living up to the Gandhi name. The narrative is beautiful and told in first person. Living in Bapuji’s village is hard for Arun. The food is simple and bland. The day begins at 4 a.m. with prayer and is followed by chores and lessons. This is a demanding life for an energetic 12-year-old boy who misses John Wayne movies, electricity and real soccer games with friends. Most of all he misses having access to his grandfather, who is surrounded by aides. He is teased by the other kids and erupts in anger. But there are touching moments when Gandhi checks on his grandson, listens to his frustrations, wipes his tears and talks about how he handles his own anger. Gandhi tells Arun how he can use his anger to make change. “We can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us.” This is a picture-book biography that stands out because it is a glimpse of a grandson’s personal account of his relationship with his famous grandfather. Evan Turk’s illustrations are stunning, bold and expressive. He uses water colors and mixed media collages with paper, cotton, cloth, yarn and tin foil. I highly recommend this unique story.
Resources: Use this book to celebrate International Day of Peace on September 21. Talk about what anger feels like. Draw pictures of your anger. List ways that you can channel or turn anger and negative feeling into positive action, as Gandhi suggests. Talk about non-violence and peace. Visit Arun Gandhi at his website where you will find a wealth of information.
Arun Gandhi, born in 1934, is the fifth grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. As a journalist for more than thirty years for the India Times, Arun now writes a blog for the Washington Post. He serves as president of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute and travels the world speaking to governmental leaders, as well as university and high school students about the practices of peace and non-violence.
Bethany Hegedus is the author of Between Us Baxters and Truth with a Capital T. Grandfather Gandhi is her debut picture book. She heard Arun Gandhi in October 2001, a month after 9/11., after he spoke in New York City’s Town Hall about his relationship with his grandfather. A story he shared “hit her hard” and she contacted Arun and asked him to work with her on a children’s book. Visit Bethany Hegedus at her website.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.