This seems to be just as true in nonfiction for children as it in human relations in general. At least, that’s my interpretation of the relative lack of nonfiction titles for young children about American pacifism and peacemakers, diplomacy and diplomats, compared to titles focused on the wars we’ve been in.
Maybe it’s because war seems to have greater potential for drama, not to mention cooler technology. Or maybe — just maybe — this country simply has a richer history of conflict engagement than conflict avoidance, nonviolence, etc.
As peaceful topics go, Martin Luther King, Jr., is an obvious exception, and for this month’s U.S. history reading for 8-year-old S and 3-year-old F, I brought home Doreen Rappaport and illustrator Bryan Collier’s Martin’s Big Words.
There’s also a four-decades-old gem by Betty Baker and illustrated by Robert Lopshire, The Pig War.
Beyond that, I found a contemporary fiction picture book reflecting on our relationship with Japan (Jean Davies Okimoto and illustrator Doug Keith’s Dear Ichiro), whimsical cautionary tales both Seuss (The Butter Battle Book) and Seussian (Dav Pilkey’s debut, available here in its entirety), Todd Parr’s conceptual The Peace Book, and Vladimir Radunsky’s highly appealing (but, sadly, Belgiancentric) Manneken Pis: A Simple Story of a Boy Who Peed on a War.
(Many — shoot, maybe all — of these titles are featured at Weapons of Mass Instruction; thanks to Kids Lit for that link. I’d also hoped to bring home Paths to Peace: People Who Changed the World, but whoever last checked that one out from my library has been sitting on it for nearly a month past its due date. When I get my hands on that lousy so-and-so who hasn’t turned in that razzafrackin‘ peace book, I’ll…)
Anyway, here’s my Memorial Day Weekend question for you all: For young children — readers of picture books through early chapter books — what other nonfiction history titles can you recommend on this topic?
Until next week — peace, y’all.