Books CORL (Check Off your Reading List) Challenge 2014 GB Challenges Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes War, Poetry, Refuge, Peace

[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Peacekeepers: Stories of Great Men by Demi (featuring “Gandhi,” “Rumi: Whirling Dervish,” and “The Dalai Lama”)



Fats here.

You’re in for a treat for my Nonfiction Wednesday contribution this week. Our quest for peace continues with three amazing biographical picturebooks written and illustrated by Demi. Each book features the life and times of three of the greatest men that the world has ever known. The first inspired movements for civil rights, the second recited poetry and danced for praise, and the third spoke up for and represented an entire community. All of them were symbols of peace, kindness, and compassion.


Written and illustrated by: Demi
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books (2001)
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.

In this book, Demi presents the life of one of the most influential socio-political leaders in the world. Born as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and known to his followers as Mahatma, Gandhi had always identified himself with the common people.

Gandhi was not the brightest student in high school and failed his classes in college. He left India to study law in London. As a foreigner, Gandhi felt so alone. He decided to live as Englishmen did—fancy hotels, violin, fox-trot, and fluency in the English language. Still, Gandhi felt disconnected from his true self. He eventually gave up everything and chose to live a simple life.

Gandhi went back to India but did not stay long. He and his wife moved to South Africa so he could work in one of the law firms there. It was in South Africa that Gandhi had a firsthand experience of racism. It was, to me, one of the most unforgettable moments in the book.


“One winter night, Gandhi was traveling in the first-class section of a train on a business trip. A white male passenger insisted Gandhi sit back in third class. Gandhi refused, and a steward threw Gandhi off the train. In the cold, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, Gandhi reflected on the deep and painful disease of prejudice.”

When the Dutch invaded South Africa and passed the Black Act (a law that stripped the civil rights of black and Indian people), Gandhi organized the first nonviolent resistance movement. Gandhi and his followers fought for the civil liberties of black and Indian people.

Shortly after returning to India, Gandhi wanted to liberate India from the British rule. He faced challenges with calmness and humility.

“In 1922, the British imprisoned Gandhi for preaching nonviolence, defying British rule, and writing anti-British pamphlets… [Gandhi] did not consider being in jail a hardship but something of which to be proud. He felt that to suffer bravely for a higher ideal was the guiding force that would make every man and woman in India free.”



The book offers simple illustrations and the language used was intended for older children. Nevertheless, it is still wonderful that children could learn about the life of a man as great as Gandhi through a material that is easy to understand. Myra shared her beautiful thoughts about the book in her Monday Reading post last year.

In reading Gandhi, one learns the life of a man who chose a life of peace from the time he was a shy little boy until his tragic assassination. Demi wrote the book in hope that readers will also try to live in peace, love, and harmony.

nfw9Rumi: Whirling Dervish

Written and illustrated by: Demi
Published by: Marshall Cavendish Children (2009)
Book borrowed from Cleveland Public Library.

Rumi was born in Afghanistan but lived in Turkey where he was considered as “the greatest mystical poet who ever lived.” When Genghis Khan and the Mongol army invaded Afghanistan, Rumi’s family organized a caravan and they all fled their homeland. Eventually, they settled in Turkey.

Rumi was a faithful servant of God and spent a great deal of his life traveling and meeting great teachers. He was in search of a teacher that would help him experience the spirit of God. He found this in a man from northwestern Iran who was named “Shams,” whose full name meant “Sun of the Faith.”

Shams had such an influence in Rumi’s life that Rumi discovered his inner creativity. Rumi was no longer just a preacher. He became a mystical poet and recited poetry in Persian. In fact, as tribute to Rumi’s way with words, Demi included some of Rumi’s beautiful poetry in the book.

Each of us is a messiah
in a world of people.
In our hands is a medicine
for every pain.

– Rumi, on Jesus as the Messiah who healed the sick


An whirling dervish ceremony.
An whirling dervish ceremony.

Rumi felt so close to God that, one day, he began to whirl and circle, turning ’round and ’round, without stopping, for 36 hours. It was a turning point in his life, literally and figuratively. The dance became known as whirling dervishes, and it was a form of prayer to God.

A terrible illness took Rumi’s life but his absence was replaced by the gift of unshakeable faith and devotion that he nurtured in the hearts of his students and followers. Rumi’s verses and whirling dervishes serve as an inspiration to people to this day.

On the day I die, when I’m being
carried toward the grave, do not weep.
Do not say, “He’s gone! He’s gone!”
Death has nothing to do with going away.
The sun sets and the moon sets
but they are not gone.
Death is a coming together.


The following words were inscribed on his tombstone:

When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find us in the hearts of men.

Like Gandhi, Rumi: Whirling Dervish talked about so many things that happened in Rumi’s life. I find the language used in this book simpler and easier for younger readers to understand. Of the three books, I think that Rumi is the one with the most breathtaking illustrations. Demi noted that she painted the book with Turkish and Chinese inks and gold overlays, inspired by the Eastern culture of the thirteenth century. The fact that Demi traveled to Turkey to see the whirling dervishes for herself is enough proof that Rumi: Whirling Dervish is a labor of love.

nfw10The Dalai Lama

Written and illustrated by: Demi
Published by: Henry Holt and Comapny (1998)
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.

I was 13, maybe 14, years old when I watched Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt. I loved the film and it was then that I became fascinated with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In Tibetan language, Dalai means “ocean” and Lama means “teacher.” When you put the words together, the name means “ocean of wisdom.” He was the manifestation of Buddha’s compassion.

As with the two other books, The Dalai Lama is a biographical picturebook that tells the life of Tibet’s beloved spiritual leader. In a foreword that he himself wrote and signed, the Dalai Lama noted that he appreciated Demi’s effort to tell his story because his story will also tell readers something about the Tibetan people and their unique way of life. I love how, even in writing, the Dalai Lama represented the Tibetan community.


Tibetans follow the teachings of Buddha. When a Dalai Lama dies, the other lamas believed that his soul had been reborn in another child. It was their task to find the child who would be the next Dalai Lama. This search for the next Dalai Lama is one of my favorite parts in the book. Although the act of relying on magical signs and omens may seem absurd to some people, I find it rather exciting.

A year has passed and the monks still had not found their new spiritual leader. As they got closer to Tasker, a beautiful rainbow led them to a small peasant hut and a pathway leading to a temple with a turquoise roof. The hut was the home of the little boy. His name was Lhamo Dhondup.

The monks needed to be certain that this was the child they had been looking for, so they began testing him. They believed that if Lhamo were really the Dalai Lama he would be able to remember things from his previous life. So they showed him various objects—things that had belonged to the thirteenth Dalai Lama along with others that had not. Instantly the two-year-old picked out all the correct objects, declaring, “Here is my old walking stick! Here is my ceremonial drum! Here are my prayer beads!”

By then the search party had no doubt that they had found the real fourteenth Dalai Lama.




Growing up, the Dalai Lama was a mischievous boy, getting his brother in trouble if the Dalai Lama didn’t study. Yet, the Dalai Lama sacrificed his childhood in order for the Tibetan people to have a leader. The Dalai Lama represents the Tibetan people and is also a symbol of peace. When his peace negotiation with Mao Tse-tung during the Communist Cultural Revolution failed, the Dalai Lama fled to India where thousands of Tibetan followed him. In 1989, the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize. He continues to live the life of a monk and work for peace to this day. The 1997 movie, Kundun, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a perfect companion to the book. Kundun was released the same year as Seven Years in Tibet but the former is a biographical film about the life and works of the fourteenth Dalai Lama.



Reading Challenge Update: 160, 161, 162 (25)


Nonfiction PictureBook Challenge: 21, 22, 23 (25)

7 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Peacekeepers: Stories of Great Men by Demi (featuring “Gandhi,” “Rumi: Whirling Dervish,” and “The Dalai Lama”)

  1. thelogonauts

    Just love Demi, great work, great books, and great men to focus on. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Great theme within a theme. I need to read more Demi. The illustrations just look wonderful!


  3. I agree with Earl: love the illustrations here! I’ve been looking for a follow-up biography of Gandhi to share with my son (we recently read Grandfather Gandhi, and he had a lot of questions that I couldn’t answer very well!), so I will be requesting this biography for sure. I also love Rumi’s work and had no idea there was a biography!


  4. Love the Rumi books, but don’t remember the one about the Dalai Lama, Fats. It looks beautiful too, and of course it’s a lovely story. Thanks for sharing these books we should remember.


  5. I have only read one from Demi. I need to find the others. thank you so much for always having such wonderful books for review.


  6. What beautiful books. Thank you so much for sharing them!


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