War & Peace
Conflict is a part of life. No one agrees all the time, so eventually we are bound to disagree with the people around us at school, work, or home. How we handle that conflict can determine whether the conflict escalates or finds a peaceful solution.
Why Do We Fight? (9781926973869. 2013. Gr. 5-8) aims to dissect conflict in all its forms—from an argument to a protest to a war—to help young people understand why it happens and how to find peaceful solutions. It begins with a quote from peace activist Gene Knudsen Hoffman: “An enemy is a person whose story we have not heard.” Those words set the tone of the book which advocates for looking more closely at conflicts to see what’s really happening. Whether it’s a global conflict or a fight with your best friend, there is likely more going on than it appears. I appreciated the openness of the book. It is more about getting kids to think critically rather than telling them what they should think. It is a well designed resource that uses graphic elements to simplify complex subjects, and there is a lot to talk about here—any chapter could make for a great discussion in a middle school classroom.
Boxers & Saints (9781596433595 & 9781596436893. 2013. Gr. 7-12) brings to life the complexity of war by sharing first one view, then another, of the Boxer Rebellion in China. Volume One follows Little Bao and his experience with the cruel foreigners. He joins a group of warriors who fight by tapping into the power of the Gods. Volume Two tells the story of a little girl rejected by her family. She eventually finds a home among the foreigners and converts to Christianity. The two volumes together create a powerful narrative in which both sides become fully human and empathetic to readers.
Conflict will never go away completely, but with books like these, we may find ourselves managing the conflict in our lives more effectively and creating a more peaceful world.