Monday, November 26, 2007

Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker

" Though War has a mind of its own, War never knows Who it is going to hit." When she wrote this picture book, Alice Walker set out to provide a vehicle to help adults talk to children about war and the realities of war. Her writing is poetic but not sentimental. And her emphasis is upon the effects of war on people and on our precious Earth, a favorite theme of Walker's.

She begins with several idyllic scenes in villages and moves on to describe the dark and destructive forces which make up warfare. Illustrator Stefano Vitale has created images which symbolize those forces and amplify the words, words like "Here War is munching on a village, its missiles taking chunks, big bites out of it." However, author and illustrator are careful not to glorify or even portray the death of human beings, the ultimate consequence of war. Adults guiding their children to try to understand war by using this book will have to explain about death for themselves.

Recommended for children 10 years and up, with adult guidance and discussion.

Alice Yazzie's Year by Ramona Maher

This unique picture book will appeal to many children who are ages 6-10. It offers gentle but persistent descriptions of daily life for Alice Ben Yazzie, in the months leading up to her twelfth birthday. Alice lives in Navajo country; the author intersperses her daily thoughts and activities with commentary on the condition of the land in Black Mountain country, the juxtaposition of old ways such as herding sheep, and the new ways, like learning computer drafting. Through this approach, she makes contemporary Navajo life more real and vivid for readers.

Aided by the soft colors and textures of Shanto Begay's drawings, readers will get an intimate look into Alice outdoors waiting for the yellow schoolbus, talking to a captive buffalo at the rodeo, and sleeping under her grandmother's picturesque woven rug. Begay dedicates his illustrations "to all the girls of the Navajo Nation who emobdy the spirit of Alice Yazzie. Grow into your holiness, into your lives. Sow and harvest compassion and strength."
Begay was born and raised in the Navajo Nation community of Shanto, Arizona. His artwork is famous and collected worldwide.

Beetle Bop by Denise Fleming

This oversize picture book, intended for children ages 1-6 but sure to be enjoyed by others, including adults, is dramatically illustrated in bold colors and sizes. Author and illustrator Fleming created many beetles, often larger than life, or even larger than a page, by pouring colored cotton fibers through hand cut stencils. The result: "Big beetles, small beetles, crawl-up-the-wall beetles." They are set against a background of a human hand,a light bulb,or a lizard with a flicking tongue, all objects that children can identify.
Overall, this is a great book for story time in a library or a classroom, due to the size of the image, the vibrancy of the colors, the large print, a minimum of words and a maximum of delightful pictures.