For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story

UN International Day of the Girl, Oct. 11, 2016

For the Right to Learn untitledFor the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story

Rebecca Langston-George, Author

Janna Bock, Illustrator

Capstone Young Readers, Nonfiction PB, Aug. 1, 2015

Suitable for ages: 8-11

Pages: 40

Themes: Malala Yousafzai, Educating girls, Children’s rights, Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Courage, Hope

Forward: “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change….” Dec. 14, 2014, Oslo, Norway

Opening: “Malala’s own education started early. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, ran a school in Mingora, a town surrounded by snowcapped mountains in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. From the time she could walk she visited classes. She even pretended to teach. Malala loved school.”

Synopsis: Few Pakistani families can afford to pay for the children’s education.  Others only paid for their sons’ educations. Mala grew up in a world where women were supposed to be quiet. Many parents believed their daughters should cook and keep house. Mala’s parents believed that girls deserved the same education as boys. She studied hard, could speak and write her native Pashto language and fluent English and Urdu. The Taliban leaders were against educating girls, intimidated school leaders, and ordered her father to close his school. But Malala Yousafzai refused to be silent in Swat Valley. She defied the Taliban’s rules. She spoke out for education for every girl. When schools closed she wrote a blog for the BBC and gave interviews. She was almost killed for her beliefs. This powerful true story of how one brave girl named Malala changed the world proves that one person really can make a difference.

Why I like this book:

Rebecca Langston-George powerfully communicates the story of Mala Yousafzai through her careful choice of words so that students are not frightened by her story, but are inspired. Malala is the voice of the many silenced girls who want to attend school. She is a selfless role model for girls everywhere.

I especially like how the book begins on a positive note with Mala receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and with excerpts from her speech. Readers will immediately feel the power in her words and her commitment to be the voice for equal education.

The setting is very realistic with an emphasis on Pakistani culture, community, family life, and traditions. It gives readers a strong sense of what it is like to live in a country where the rights of women and girls are suppressed. It is a story that needs to be told and can be used as a springboard for students to talk about the inequalities for girls and women worldwide.  Hopefully, readers will appreciate their education and not take it for granted.

Janna Bock’s beautiful illustrations make this story soar. She captures the love of a supportive family, the beauty of the Swat Valley with its lush valleys and beautiful waterfalls, the joy of Mala and the other girls studying together at school, the growing fear as the Taliban force girls and women to wear garments to cover their entire bodies and faces, and the danger everywhere. Bock’s illustrations made this book an emotional story that is filled with courage and hope.

Resources: This book belongs in every school library.  It will spark many lively discussions among students about the education of all students globally. For older students there is a page, “More About Malala’s Story” at the end of the book. It is the perfect book the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl, Oct. 11, 2016. This year’s theme is: Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement. It’s just not a day, but a movement where girls get involved. Also check out Day of the Girl – US. And, today the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced.

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.

Sharing Our Homeland

Sharing Our Homeland9781584302605_p0_v1_s260x420Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at Summer Peace Camp

Trish Marx, Author

Cindy Karp, Photographer

Lee & Low Books Inc., Nonfiction, Jun. 1, 2010

Pages: 42

Suitable for Ages: 8 and up

Themes: Peace Camp, Friendships between Jewish and Arab children, Tolerance, Respect, Multicultural

Opening: “Summer is here, and Alya and Yuval are off to camp. They will swim and play games, sing and make crafts, go on field trips and spend a night sleeping in tents. They will have fun with their friends and make new ones.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Summer is here, and Alya, an Israeli Palestinian girl, and Yuval, and Israeli Jewish boy, are off to Peace Camp. They are excited, but their excitement is mixed with apprehension. The area in which they live has been fought over by Palestinians and Jews for a hundred years. What will campers from the “other side” be like? the children wonder.

At camp, Alya, Yuval, and the other campers enjoy two weeks of fun in close contact with one another. They participate in sports, create arts and crafts projects, and go on field trips. The children begin to understand what their homeland means to both sides. They learn not to be afraid and to respect one another.

What I like about this book:

  • Trish Marx has written a compelling and thought-provoking book for youth about a Peace Camp for children in one of the most complex parts of the world. It is heartwarming to know that there are both Jews and Muslims living in Israel who would like a peaceful coexistence.
  • The book focuses on a Muslim girl, Alya, and a Jewish boy,Yuval, who happen to live in neighboring settlements and probably would never meet, except through camp. Readers are introduced to their families, learn a little about their daily lives, occupations, culture and traditions.
  • The author gives a brief history about the Middle East and the context for the conflict in the region. As she does so, she explains how Alya and Yuval live in the midst of this ongoing conflict and the impact on their lives.
  • The goal of Givat Haviva’s Menashe Summer Peace Camp is to build “bridges and understanding among the campers.” It reaches out to children with the hopes of creating a foundation for peace, tolerance and respect for each other.
  • Cindy Karp’s vivid and colorful photographs are filled with laughter and chronicle the activity of the campers. The campers’ days are filled with swimming, water slides, a day at the beach, arts and crafts projects, climbing, and games. There are field trips to a kibbutz (Jewish settlement) and an Arab village where they learn to bake challah bread and taboon, a round flatbread. There is a sleepover the last night.
  • Readers will gain insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and feel hope that solutions may come with younger generations. I highly recommend this book and hope that it has a home in every school library.

Resources: The author provides further reading, websites of interest, and a glossary at the end.  You may visit Trish Marx at her Lee  & Low website.

The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston

Olive Tree9781937786298_p0_v1_s260x420The Olive Tree

Elsa Marston, Author

Claire Ewart, Illustrator

Wisdom Tales, Fiction, Nov. 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Olive Tree, Neighbors, Lebanon, Middle East, Sharing, Friendship, Peace, Multicultural

Opening: For many years the house next to Sameer’s had stood empty. “What a pity!” his mother often said. The family who lived there had gone away during the troubles, because they were different from most of the people in the village. But now, the long war was over, and they were coming back.

Synopsis:  Sameer leans on an old stone wall that divides the property between two families. Above him an ancient olive tree grows on the other side of the wall, but the best olives fall on his family’s property. He eagerly watches the family move back into their home and hopes that they have a boy with whom he  can play. But Muna doesn’t want to play with Sameer, or share her family’s olives. One night during a storm, lightning strikes the olive tree and it crashes to the ground. Even the stone wall is broken. Will the two children find a way to resolve their differences?

What I like about this book:

  • Elsa Marston’s The Olive Tree is a richly textured and realistic story about two Lebanese children who struggle to get along after a war, learn to share, and find friendship through adversity.
  • The narrative is simple and lyrical. There is tension between Sameer and Muna, who are from two different families with different backgrounds. When their beloved olive tree is struck by lightning, they work silently together to clear the broken branches from their yards. They move beyond their anger, reconcile and heal.
  • The symbolism is appropriate with the broken stone wall, the toppled tree, and the olive branch (a peace-offering.)
  • This book is a reminder that our actions toward peace and reconciliation are powerful and unifying. They do make an important difference in the lives of those around us.
  • Children will gain a glimpse into a contemporary Lebanon and its culture. Marston was in Lebanon at the outbreak of the war and after it was over.  She was moved to write this hopeful middle eastern story.
  • This healing multicultural book belongs in school libraries as it will encourage many interesting discussions among students.
  • Claire Ewart’s beautiful illustrations are warm and colorful watercolors that draw the reader into the story from the first page. Her artwork is expressive and supports the emotion and tension in the story.

Resources: Visit Elsa Marston’s website to learn more about The Olive Tree.  She has included some background information about Lebanon, the culture, the civil war and discussion questions for the classroom.  I especially like her role-playing suggestions.

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.

Grandfather Gandhi

Grandfather Ghandi9781442423657_p0_v5_s260x420Grandfather Gandhi

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 TGrandfather 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.

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine

Hana's9780807531471_p0_v1_s260x420Hana’s Suitcase

Karen Levine, Author

Albert Whitman & Company, Biography, 2003

Suitable for Ages: 10-14 (Grade 5 and up)

Themes: Hana Brady, Jewish Children, Holocaust, Persecution, Czech Republic, Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, Promoting Peace

Synopsis (Book Jacket)This is a true account of two brave children caught in the Holocaust and a young Japanese woman’s determination to tell their story. In March 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children’s Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan.  On the outside, in white paint were these words”  Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, and Waisenkind–the German word for orphan.  Children who saw the suitcase on display were full of questions.  Who was Hana Brady?  What happened to her?  They wanted Fumiko Ishioka, the center’s curator, to find the answers.  In a suspenseful journey, Fumiko searches for clues across Europe and North America.  The mystery of the suitcase takes her back through seventy years, to a young Hana and her family, whose happy life in a small Czech town was turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis.

What I like this book:  Kudos to Karen Levine who performed the original Canadian radio broadcast about Hana, George and the children of Tokyo, which resulted in this book.  This was a tragic story about a Jewish girl killed in Auschwitz. It was also a heartwarming story about the determination of a woman, Fumiko Ishioka, the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Center, who wanted to teach the children of Japan about the Holocaust and the importance of building peace.  Since Japan was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II, the children of Japan knew little about the atrocities that occurred.  Once the suitcase arrived with Hana Brady’s name and birth date, the children asked questions.  Fumiko embarked upon a journey that linked three continents together.  She found Hana’s brother in Canada and invited him to visit with the children of Tokyo, and see Hana’s long-lost suitcase.  He told the students about Hana and their life before the Holocaust and about life in prison camps .  Although difficult for George Brady, he discovered that in the end he was honoring Hana’s wish to become a teacher.  In her death, she was teaching millions of children worldwide about what happened to one-and-a-half million Jewish children.  The exhibit traveled all over Japan.

Resources:  This book is a great teaching tool for grades 5 to 8.  There is back matter in the book.  A 90-minute DVD about Hana’s Suitcase can be found in libraries.  It chronicles the events from Fumiko receiving the suitcase, her research, the Japanese children’s involvement, to George’s visit to Tokyo and his interaction with the students.  I highly recommend this book for classrooms and homeschoolers.  You may want to check out the Brady Family Website which if full of fascinating information and Karen Levine’s original radio interview.

Celebrate Global Oneness Day-Oct. 24 with Children

The world will celebrate Global Oneness Day on United Nations Day, October 24.  Since its creation by Humanity’s Team in 2010, it continues to expand every year.  Central to its theme is solidarity and recognizing our similarities.  This year it will begin at dawn in Australia and spread as the sun rises around the world.  On Global Oneness Day, Humanity’s Team “invites people to take this awareness of our Oneness public for one day, to remind others of our fundamental interconnection with all people and all life.”

For parents and teachers wishing to help children focus on the uniqueness and diversity of our global community, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite picture books that fit this theme for children ages 4 to 9 years.  They are all excellent selections for parents and teachers to use with children at home and at school.

Peace9780689825521_p0_v2_s260x420Peace

Wendy Anderson Halperin, Author and Illustrator

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, 2013

Synopsis: Halperin’s message is very clear from the start.  For there to be peace in the world…you must have peace in your heart.  Her lyrical style encourages children to question “how do we bring peace to our world.”  There must be peace in nations…in cities…in neighborhoods…in schools…in homes…and in hearts.  The text includes quotes from famous peace makers.  Her artwork is simply stunning pencil  and watercolor, and intricately detailed.  The illustrations in the beginning show every day problems in all cultures.  Once you reach the middle, the text and illustrations in the book reverse and show how the world could be if we have peace in our hearts.  Such a beautiful contrast.  This book will lead to many interesting discussions.  It is a gem!

Colors of the Earth13963703All the Colors of the Earth

Sheila Hamanaka, Author and Illustrator

Harper and Collins, Fiction 1999

Synopsis:  Hamanaka reveals through soft verse that despite our physical differences, children everywhere are lovable and all the same.  The book opens with “Children come in all the colors of the earth…”  She creatively uses the colors of the earth to depict how closely we are all related, even through nature.  Children come with hair like lambs and hair that flows in water.  They come in all colors of love of their families, and in cinnamon, wheat and caramel and chocolate and honey bees.  Their vibrancy and innocence has a valuable impact on our land, and unite us as one.  Her book leaves one hopeful for our future.  I also appreciate that Hamanaka carefully includes children with special needs in her lush illustrations.  Her book is inspired by her own two children’s multi-ethnic heritage.

Whoever You Are38317117Whoever Your Are

Mem Fox, Author

Leslie Staub, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, 2006

Synopsis: Fox’s book focuses on the differences between people around our planet, and the similarities that unite us like love, pain, and joy.  It is a beautiful celebration of all human life.  Her message is simple — there are children just like you all over the world living in different homes, attending different schools, speaking different languages, and living lives that are culturally different.  But no matter where they are, they all smile, laugh, cry and love.  Staub’s illustrations are colorful, folk art–style oil paintings and give the book a warm feeling.   This a story children will easily relate to.

What Does Peace Feel Like9780689866760_p0_v1_s260x420What Does Peace Feel Like

Vladimir Radunsky, Author and Illustrator

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, 2004

Synopsis:  Radunsky opens the book with children and adults saying “Peace” in a variety of languages.  Children at the Ambrit international School in Rome were asked to comment on peace using their five senses: what it smells, sounds, tastes, looks and feels like.   Their answers are simple and in many ways wise.  For example, “What does peace sound like?”  The children respond, “like a silent day.”  The book will encourage children to share their own thoughts and visions of peace.  The illustrations are vibrant and colorful and compliment the story.  Radunsky ends the book with “peace” in  approximately 190 different languages.

The Three Sunflowers

Three Sunflowerscropped-tts-cover-for-website-headerThe Three Sunflowers

Janet Lucy, Author

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Illustrator

Publishing by the Seas, Fiction, November 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes:  Sunflowers, Life Cycles, Nature, Courage,  Faith, Harmony, Peace, Patience, Wisdom

Opening:  “Dawn awoke early one morning washing the summer sky in fresh new shades of pink, orange and lavender.” 

Synopsis:  Life in the garden was alive with activity.   Gloria, a tall and wise sunflower, sprung up earlier in the season near a pepper tree.  She was once a black and white seed in one of the bird feeders.  She was dropped by a bird to the ground where she planted herself and grew.  Two smaller sunflowers, Sunny and Solita, grew beside Gloria.  Their day was peaceful until a hawk swooped down to the feeders and disturbed the tranquility in the garden.  The birds flew off.  Solita and Sunny  were frightened and shouted at the hawk.  But, Gloria reminded them “We are sunflowers, golden and radiant.”  “Our job is to be loving and peaceful wherever we stand.”   Peace returned to the garden, but later that afternoon a thunderstorm darkened the skies and threatened the strength and stability of the sunflowers.   Once again Sunny and Solita held on by their roots afraid they might tumble.  Gloria reached for their stalks and pulled them close.  Their resiliency was tested in the face of a big storm.

Why I like this book:  Janet Lucy has created an inspiring book for children with many gentle life lessons about staying centered when turbulence is swirling around you, being who you are supposed to be, living in the moment, being present with those we love and being thankful.   These are all concepts children will grasp.  There is so much depth to this story and I had to be careful not to give it away.  With spring around the corner, it is also a story about life cycles, death, and transformation.  Colleen McCarthy-Evans’s watercolor illustrations are exquisite and perfect for the story.

Resources:   Sunflowers are an international symbol of Peace.  Lucy urges children to plant seeds of peace in their gardens.  You only need to visit The Three Sunflowers website to find wonderful resources, activities and a teaching guide to share with children.   I was intrigued with how many virtues are included in this story, all great topics for discussion.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.