Book Reviews

In our mission to empower the education community to promote a just and peaceful world, we would like to share these fantastic books with you. Email us at if you know of any books that you think we should highlight.

Americans Who Tell The Truth

posted Nov 11, 2009, 11:43 PM by Dan Thiede

By Robert Shetterly
Dutton Children’s Books, 2005

This book is filled with portraits of some of the greatest fighters for truth and justice throughout the history of the United States. Mr. Shetterly was inspired to create a book about great Americans after the tragic events of 911. He wanted to show Americans who have had great courage, wisdom and compassion for others. He wanted to highlight truth tellers and members of our society that see justice as a goal for all of us.

  • What do the people in Mr. Shetterly’s book have in common?
  • What kinds of things have they done to work for peace and justice?
  • What story do you connect with?  Who do you want to learn more about?

Self Portrait: Ask students to draw their own self portrait and write a short bio of things they hope to accomplish in their life to make the world a better place to live. Write the bio as if it has already happened.

Honor: Ask students to think of a person outside of school who does kind and compassionate things for others, or animals or the planet. Interview that person, draw their portrait and write a short bio. Create an art display and invite the people who are honored in the art to come and see the picture and words and invite other community members to come and honor these everyday heroes.

Find this book

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Book review by Kevin McGee

Ten Amazing People and How They Changed The World

posted Nov 11, 2009, 11:37 PM by Dan Thiede

By Maura D. Shaw
Illustrated by Stephen Marchesi
Skylight Press, 2002

This non-fiction picture book provides 10 biographies of individuals who have worked for peace and justice throughout the world. Each bio is 2-3 pages in length and is beautifully illustrated by Stephen Marchesi.

Dinner Party: Ask students to investigate someone who has made a significant contribution to their community by promoting peace and justice. Ask each student to write a bio sheet for that person as well as 6-10 clues that would allow others to guess who the famous person might be. Host a lunch (dinner) for your class and ask the students to come as the famous person they chose. The teacher will choose one card with the 6-10 clues on it and see if the audience can guest who their famous guest is. When the students have guessed or identified the person invite that guest to come to the front and read the biography.

Time Magazine Cover: Bring in the Time Person of the year edition and tell the kids what its all about. Discuss the people who have become the Person of the year and what they did to receive that particular honor. Imagine that you were voted to be Person of the Year by Time Magazine in the year 2050. Draw your self-portrait and make it like the cover of the Magazine. Write an article that describes what you did to become Time Magazine’s person of the year. How did you contribute to peace and justice in the world? What significant contribution did you make?

Poem: Create poems for the individuals that appear in the book and for others that have contributed to peace and justice.

Investigate: Find out who are the activists in your community that work for peace and justice. Interview them and write their bio. Create your own local Ten Amazing People Book and then host an evening to honor the 10 people featured in your class book. Honor them with a poem, a song, a story about their lives and thank them for their contribution to peace and justice.

Find this book

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Book review by Kevin McGee

A Little Peace

posted Nov 11, 2009, 11:28 PM by Dan Thiede

By Barbara Kerley
National Geographic Books, 2007

Amazing photographs illustrate the beautifully poetic words of Barbara Kerley in this picture book published by National Geographic. Simple gestures, like a smile or a helping hand, have the power to spread peace through the world. The photos included in the book were taken all over the world and show the universality of these gestures in action.

Discussion Questions & Activities:
  • Prior to reading the book, ask students to find the list of countries that appear in the book and after reading see if they can match the picture to the country of origin. The answers are given in the back of the book.
  • Is it possible to have peace throughout the world. Why or why not?
  • What does it take to have peace everyday, everywhere in the world?
  • Challenge students to collect quotes about peace and illustrate those quotes or find pictures in magazines and create a collage around the quote.

Find this book

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Book review by Kevin McGee

Can You Say Peace?

posted Nov 11, 2009, 11:07 PM by Dan Thiede

By Karen Katz
Henry Holt and Company, 2006

This picture books celebrates the International Day of Peace created by the UN celebrated every September 21st. The book follows a simple pattern of naming a child, sharing where he/she is from and tells the word for peace in primary language of that child. It is a wonderful companion book to Katz’s book The Colors of Us.

Practice saying the word for peace in many languages. Find out more important words from the languages represented in the book and ask the students if learning a new language could help spread peace in the world. Why or why not?

Do students in your class speak other languages that are not represented in the book? How would they say peace in the languages they know and use?

Find out the history of the International Peace Day. Ask students to do something kind and peaceful for someone at school on this day and record the kind gesture on a card and place that card in a pre-determined place. Read the cards at the end of the day and discuss how kind gestures help promote and celebrate peace.

Learn a song about peace and sing it as and opening and closing on the International Day of Peace.

Find this book
Click here to buy this book directly from the publisher
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Book review by Kevin McGee

Peace and Pancakes

posted Nov 11, 2009, 10:56 PM by Dan Thiede

By Anne M. Picard
Beaver’s Pond Press 2006

Anne Picard, a former Board Member for World Citizen, wrote and illustrated this wonderful picture book with a message of peace, love and compassion. This is the story of Grendle (who loves pancakes) but is upset by the Giant who scares everyone in the land where he lives.  Grendle seeks the help of Frederick, a teacher and mentor, to learn a peaceful way to approach the giant and encourage peace for all. Grendle discovers that the Giant isn’t so nice because he’s sad and lonely. Grendle helps him discover that friendship and kindness are the actions that can make a true difference in the lives of others. 

Discussion Questions:
  • What skills does Grendle learn from his mentor? Do you feel you practice these skills?
  • What causes the Giant to change?
  • Do you have teachers in your life that help you make wise choices for peace? What have you learned?
  • When you meet others who seem ‘mean’ or don’t treat others well, how do you handle those situations and how do you treat the people involved in those situations? How do you know when to walk away, report it to an adult, or try to work it out? What if what you try doesn’t work—what do you do next?
  • Do you have to be friends with someone or even like them to treat them with respect?
  • Dragons have great power in most stories. They breathe fire, can fly and usually have great strength. Grendle doesn’t use these powers to fight the Giant. Why not? Can a person be considered strong and courageous when they choose not to fight?
Make pancakes and read this wonderful book!

Find this book
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Book review by Kevin McGee

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

posted Nov 11, 2009, 10:36 PM by Dan Thiede

By Jeanette Winter
Harcourt Children’s Book Publishers, 2008

Wangari Maathai is a world famous environmental and human rights activists who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2004. This beautifully written and illustrated picture book shares key events from the life story of this remarkable leader. In her effort to protect the environment and the lives of millions in Kenya, Wangari has worked tirelessly to encourage her fellow citizens to plant trees and preserve the forests. She started the Green Belt Movement as an answer to the deforestation that was happening around her the impact that it had on the lives of her fellow citizens. She continues to speak throughout the world to encourage all of us to make wise decisions regarding sustainability and peace.

After reading the life story of Wangari Maathai it may be interesting for participants to identify protected land in the area where you live. Why is the land protected? Who takes care of the land? How can people help to protect land in their area?

Some possible discussion questions:
  • What was the issue that Wangari observed and what did she do to try to solve the problem she was noticing?
  • Are there similar problems where you live?  How clean is your water?  Is there an issue with deforestation?  Are there any pollution problems?
  • People make choices that impact the environment.  When the environment around us changes it impacts people in very direct and indirect ways.  What kinds of choices are we making that negatively impact the environment around us?  This is a big question – students can look at this through their personal choices, through the businesses in the community in which they live, and through the national and international actions and policies of corporations, governments, laws and policies (depending on their age).
Plant a Tree: Wangari Maathai encourages us to plant a tree in our own backyard as well as think about how to restore our local environment to what grows naturally and is indigenous to the area.

Nobel Peace Prize Festival: This is an excellent book to launch a study of one of the recent Nobel Peace Prize winners that your students could study and present at the next Peace Prize Festival held at Augsburg college!

Resources to continue discussing the themes in this book:
  • Rethinking Globalization is a teachers resource that is published by the organization Rethinking Schools that offers teachers and parents lots of ideas on how to discuss the issues of globalization and how the actions and policies related to our global economic systems impacts human rights, animal rights and environmental sustainability.
  • Zoe Weil and her work through the International Institute for Humane Education have a great bank of lessons for teachers and parents who want to have deep and meaningful learning connected to issues related to human rights, animal rights and environmental sustainability. Zoe has written an excellent book for parents called Above All Else Be Kind and a wonderful resource book for teachers called The Power and Promise of Humane Education which is filled with resources and ideas to have meaningful discussions with students about their personal impact on the future of the earth and how to live peacefully and with a mission of justice. She recently released a book for anyone interested in these important topics called Most Good, Least Harm
Find this book
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Book review by Kevin McGee

One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists by Janet Wilson

posted Nov 11, 2009, 10:26 PM by Dan Thiede

By Janet Wilson
Orca Book Publishers, 2008

We highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to inspire young people to take action for peace. This non-fiction picture book is filled with stories and examples of children who have worked to create peace in their communities and throughout the world. The book also provides lots of facts and current statistics regarding the state of peace and violence in the world. The children who are featured are from all different places across throughout the world living in all sorts of different conditions and contexts. The one thing they all have in common is the recognition of a problem and a desire to do something to solve the problem in a peaceful manner.

After reading this book, many children may be inspired to raise money for one of the organizations that have been created by other children in the world to support their cause. Some children may be inspired to identify a problem in their community and begin to take action solve that problem and work for peace. Other children may want to find an organization in their community that aligns with their beliefs about peace and justice and volunteer to help the organization live out its mission.

One of the last pages in the book states, “What difference can you make for peace?” What a great question for all of us to ponder. What a great question to empower to inspire children to take action on behalf of others, the earth or animals.

Find this book
Click here to buy this book directly from the publisher
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Book review by Kevin McGee

Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace

posted Nov 11, 2009, 10:19 PM by Dan Thiede

By Shelley Moore Thomas
Photos by Eric Futran
Albert Whitman and Company, 1998

In this picture book, filled with beautiful photographs of children by Eric Futran, the author shares the message that “Somewhere Today” people are creating peace through gentle acts of love and kindness.

This is a wonderful book to help young children know that small acts of kindness, done out of love and care, can have great impact on others and our world. Kindness fosters peace.

  • What kinds of things do you do to show kindness and love for others?
  • What can you do today to be helpful and kind?
  • What can you do or say when you notice that someone is being kind to you or is doing something to show you that they care for you?
Writing: Ask the students to think about something they did in the past few days that showed kindness towards others. Have them copy the pattern in the story and write, “Somewhere Today..." and complete the sentence with their act of kindness. Take a photo of that child and instead of having them put their name next to their sentence, the photo will show who said those words.

Emerging Readers: It is helpful for emerging readers to notice little words in words as one way to decode more complex words.  What little words do they notice in some of the words in this story—for example in Somewhere I see the words some and where. I also see me and so. Does noticing the smaller words help me read the larger word? Which ones do and which ones don’t? In today I see the words to and day? Does that help me decode that word?

Thank You: An act of peace could be thanking someone for doing something that helps you or others in your community. Helping your students and children discover different people in your community and how they help others is an important. Thanking them for their contribution is an act of peace. Firefighters, teachers, social workers, police officers, trash collectors, custodians, nurses, doctors, architects, volunteers, animal rescue people, activists, etc, are all people who take care of people and the community. Imagine if you had a practice of thanking people take the time to help others.

Find this book

Click here to buy this book directly from the publisher
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Book review by Kevin McGee

Talk Peace

posted Nov 11, 2009, 10:08 PM by Dan Thiede   [ updated Nov 11, 2009, 10:15 PM ]

By Sam Williams
Illustrations by Mique Moriuchi
Holiday House Press, 2005

This charming picture book is a simple rhyming picture book that appeals to young children. The illustrations by Mique Moriuchi are vibrant, colorful, warm and inviting. The book encourages us to think about peace in all our actions and words at different times and places.

Discussion: This is a great book to engage children in a discussion about how peace is created. Some questions you could ask prior to reading the book or after might be:
  • What do you do to help yourself be peaceful?
  • What can you do when you are feeling angry if you want to actions to be peaceful?
  • How do we create peace between friends and family members?
  • How do we solve problems between friends and family members peacefully?
  • Can you think of a person you know that is very peaceful? What do you notice about their words and actions?
Emerging Readers: If you have an emerging reader reading this book you could notice the rhyming words and any spelling patterns with those words. There are many words that have the long e sound but they are spelled with an ee or ea. Ask students or your child to sort these words in to ee spellings and ea spellings.  Play a spelling game where you say the word and the students/ your child get a point if they tell you if the word is spelled with ee or ea.

Creating Art: For the artist in all of us, this is a great book to create a poster using scraps of paper, scissors, and glue.  Cut out the letters for “Talk Peace” and glue them in the center and then create different symbols and scenes around the words by gluing scraps of different colored paper together.  Cut out paper will give it a similar feeling to the illustrations in the book.  The poster can be put in your classroom, in your room, on the refrigerator….anywhere that might help everyone think about peaceful thoughts, words and actions!

Find this book
Click here to buy this book directly from the publisher
Click here to find a local book store near you on IndieBound

Book review by Kevin McGee

Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize

posted Nov 11, 2009, 9:49 PM by Dan Thiede   [ updated Nov 11, 2009, 10:02 PM ]

By Kathy-Jo Wargin
Illustrated by Zachary Pullen
Sleeping Bear Press, 2009

This picture book helps us learn about the man behind the creation of the Nobel Peace Prize! The Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded in 1901. The prize was created by Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and one of the richest men in Europe. This beautifully illustrated picture book explains how Alfred invented new ways to use nitroglycerin in safe ways. His goal was to make large scale building projects safer for people who needed explosives to clear the way for bridge and road construction. It was not his intention that people would use his invention to develop new military weapons. He was very sad that people used his invention to hurt others.  He was determined to leave a legacy of peace and encourage others to serve the world in a positive manner. After he died he donated most of his money to the creation of the Nobel Prizes which includes one of the most famous awards for people who work for peace.

Each year, many school age children in Minnesota participate in the Nobel Peace Prize Festival held at Augsburg college every spring. The children study one of the past recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize and prepare a presentation to honor the recipient they chose. The presentations often include songs, dances, speeches, art projects and typically a display about the Nobel Prize Winner. All schools are invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize Festival and to learn more about the Festival and how you can participate—learn more on the Nobel Peace Prize Festival page.

This would be a wonderful book to teach students who may be attending the Festival about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize and the man who created this international tradition.  

It’s a great book for all children to think about the legacy they want to leave in the world. We all have choices in our lives everyday. The choices we make impact our own sense of well being, other people, the earth and the animals we share the planet with.

What kind of impact do you want your choices to have? Some of our choices have a negative impact and some of our choices have a positive impact. Sometimes we have to choose between certain things and choose the one that does the least harm.

These do not have to be big choices. Our little, everyday choices have great impact. When we choose to drink water do we use tap water or buy bottle water? When we sit down to eat, do we think about where the food came from, how it is grown, and if anyone or animals were harmed in creating the food we eat? When we need clothes do we think about who made the clothes and how they were treated or how far the clothes had to be shipped in order to buy them? When we brush our teeth do we think about the toothpaste we use—is it made naturally or with chemicals—was it tested on animals?

Each of us make choices everyday—what impact do you want to have on the world? Alfred Nobel wanted to serve people and make the world a better place—what is your goal in life?

Find this book
Click here to buy this book directly from the publisher
Click here to find a local book store near you on IndieBound

Book review by Kevin McGee

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