Peace-Promoting Books Every Child Should Hear
Bang, Molly. When Sophie Gets Angry, Really Really Angry. Blue Sky/Scholastic, 1999. Simple, powerful picture book shows how a child feels out of control but calms down as she spends time with nature. Bang’s striking illustrations reflect the varied feelings Sophie experiences and enhance the reader’s appreciation of them. Use this to discuss how being outdoors can help people find inner peace.
Borton, Lady. Junk Pile. New York: Philomel, 1997. Jamie, whose father has a junk yard, knows how to fix the school bus. She also has to figure out a way to deal with a bully.
Bosca, Francesca. The Apple King. A self-centered, greedy king learns the value of sharing after worms invade his apples and tell him how the apples feel.
Bryan, Ashley. Beautiful Blackbird. Renowned author-illustrator Bryan has retold a lively folktale celebrating the many hues of beauty.
Bunting, Eve. One Green Apple. An Iraqi immigrant girl, with a little encouragement from a classmate, begins to adjust to her new home in the U.S.
da Costa, Deborah. Snow Falls in Jerusalem. A stray cat brings together a Jewish boy and an Arab boy, who discover they have much in common.
DeFelice, Cynthia. One Potato, Two Potato. A fresh take on an Asian folktale, DeFelice sets hers in Ireland and reveals the importance of sharing and of gratitude in bringing about personal happiness.
Demi. Gandhi. Simon & Schuster, 2001. Demi’s richly colored miniature paintings enhance this moving story of the hero who has inspired so many people by his effort “to root out the disease of prejudice, but never to yield to violence and never to use violence against others.”
DiSalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. Spaghetti Park. Neighbors in a diverse neighborhood decide they must work together to restore their park. Also see this author’s A Castle for Viola, about a family that gets a simple, safe home at last.
Fleischman, Paul. Weslandia. This story celebrating diversity is the author’s best picture book.
Forrest, Heather. Wisdom Tales From Around the World. Little Rock: August House, 1996. Traditional stories that reflect wisdom of many cultures and religions.
Hoose, Phillip and Hannah. Hey Little Ant. Tricycle, 1998. A great little parable where the golden rule can come alive for children.
Jaffe, Nina. The Cow of No Color: Riddle Stories and Justice Tales From Around the World. New York: Holt, 1998. Folktales feature characters who face an obstacle and must decide about what is fair or just. Also, see While Standing on One Foot: Puzzle Stories and Wisdom Tales from the Jewish Tradition.
Keats, Ezra Jack. Goggles. Boys outsmart neighborhood bullies and then enjoy the treasured goggles they found.
Kellogg, Steven. The Island of the Skog. New York: Dial, 1973. Tired of their dangerous environment, Jenny and her friends sail off to an island, only to confront fear in the form of a “skog,” the island’s lone inhabitant. The characters learn the importance of communicating in a friendly manner.
Kimmel, Eric. Brother Wolf, Sister Moon. Don’t miss the memorable legend “Saint Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio,” in which the hero employs techniques for peacemaking to save a town terrorized by a hungry wolf.
Kinsey-Warnock, Natalie. Nora’s Ark. Neighbors help each other survive a flood.
Lester, Helen. Hooway for Wodney Wat. Rodney, taunted for his speech, becomes a hero after he rids the class of a bully.
Levitin, Sonia. All the Cats in the World. New York: Harcourt, 1982. An elderly woman is taunted by the lighthouse keeper when she feeds the nearby abandoned cats. After she becomes ill, he realizes he was wrong. Also see her humorous, wise Who Owns the Moon?
Martin, Rafe. The Monkey Bridge. Illus. by Fahimeh Amiri. Knopf, 1997. Based on a Buddhist jataka tale, Martin tells how monkeys teach a king to share the delicious fruits of the “Treasure Tree.”
McBrier, Page. Beatrice’s Goat. The gift of a goat enables a girl in Uganda to go to school. Based on the work of the Heifer Project.
Macdonald, Margaret. Peace Tales : World Folktales to Talk About. Collection of multicultural folktales includes “Lifting the Sky,” which illustrates the importance of working together to achieve results.
Milway, Katie Smith. One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference. Kids Can Press, 2008. Kojo, who lives in a poor village in Ghana, borrows enough coins to buy a hen. That hen produces eggs, and Kojo sells the surplus eggs at the market. Kojo’s business grows, and he is able to help others. The bright acrylic illustrations help make this informative account lively and engaging A brief biography of the actual Kojo is included.
Mills, Lauren. The Dog Prince. A poor girl teaches an arrogant prince a lesson in humility and empathy.
Moss, Peggy. Say Something. A child who doesn’t object to others being bullied realizes the importance of saying something when she herself experiences taunts.
Muth, Jon. Stone Soup. Muth retells a beloved old French folktale and transports it to China. Instead of hungry soldiers, he features three monks who know the importance of community in making people happy. This picture book presents a feast for the eyes, heart and mind.
————– Zen Shorts. Humorous stories featuring a panda and Muth’s lighthearted watercolor paintings show the value of simplicity and gratefulness.
Nivola, Claire A. Planting the Trees of Kenya. Farrar, 2008. Beautifully written and illustrated picture-book biography of Wangari Maathai, first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai, educated as a biologist in the U.S., returned to Kenya to find devastating erosion caused by commercial farming. She set about teaching the people to plant trees and take care of the land. This book gives adults a lovely way to show children how each person — and each tree — can help our world.
Partridge, Elizabeth. Kogi’s Mysterious Journey. New York: Dutton, 2003. Kogi frees a fish and finds himself transformed into a fish, experiencing a world of peace and wonder.
Preus, Margi. Peace Bell. Holt, 2008. Uncovering a little-known inspiring, true story, Peace Bell tells how a beloved old temple bell was taken from a Japanese village during WWII. The villagers, assuming it was melted down for weapons, are joyous when the citizens of Duluth, Minnesota, return the bell as a gesture of goodwill.
Rappaport, Doreen. John’s Secret Dreams. Il. by Bryan Collier. Disney, 2004. This powerful picture-book biography celebrates Lennon’s hopes for peace in the world. Rappaport’s accessible text is enhanced by Collier’s lively, lyrical collages that unfurl Lennon’s lyrics. Enhance this story further with your own recording of Lennon’s songs.
Rappaport, Doreen. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Il. by Bryan Collier. Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2001. This writer-illustrator team again take the genre to a new level. Rappaport expertly focuses on the highlights of King’s life and his own powerful words. These words shine with Collier’s collages, which utilize cut-paper, photographs, and watercolors.
Sasso, Sandy Eisenberg. Cain & Abel: Finding the Fruits of Peace. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2001. Two brothers become angry, and violence comes to the world.
Scanlon, Liz Garton. All the World. Beach Lane, 2009. Lovely, gentle story that instills a sense of peace and appreciation of the world.
Schwartz, Howard, retel. The Diamond Tree. Collection of Jewish folktales includes “A Palace of Bird Beaks,” where King Solomon must learn the value of listening and of humility.
Smith, Chris. One City, Two Brothers. This folktale known to both Jews and Arabs is a story of hope and brotherhood and also of the founding of Jerusalem.
Steig, William. Amos and Boris. Doubleday, 1971. Beloved story of an unlikely friendship between a mouse and a whale.
Tutu, Desmond and Douglas Carlton Abrams. God’s Dream. Candlewick, 2008. In simple, reassuring words, Tutu tells how God dreams of a world where all children join hands in peace. A warm palette and large digitally enhanced illustrations by Leuyen Pham contribute to the loving tone of this book.
Wells, Rosemary. Yoko. The other children make fun of Yoko’s lunch because it is different. The one who tries her sushi, however, likes it and becomes her friend.
Williams, Karen Lynn and Khadra Mohammed. Four Feet, Two Sandals. Eerdmans, 2007. Two refugee children overcome their differences and become friends as they share a much-needed pair of sandals. Also see Williams’ other books, especially Galimoto, about a resourceful child who makes toys from scraps, and Circles of Hope, an ecological story set in Haiti.
Winter, Jeannette. The Librarian of Basra. Simple, moving and true story of Alia Baker, the librarian of Basra who risked her life to save the community’s books before the 2003 Iraq War destroys the public library.
—————— Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan. A caring grandmother takes Nasreen to a school hidden in the home of a brave woman who is determined to offer girls an education. 2010 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.
Wood, Douglas. Old Turtle and Old Turtle and the Broken Truth. A girl talks to Old Turtle, who tells her how to mend the broken truth that can heal a cruel, violent world.
Woodson, Jacqueline. The Other Side. New York: Putnam, 2001. Two girls, one white and one African-American, get to know each other as they sit on the fence that divides their town.
Yolen, Jane. Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys. Yolen has retold folktales in which the hero uses his imagination or cleverness to resolve conflicts.