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

[Saturday Reads] Celebrating the Light Within: List of Picturebooks about Peace – Fiction and Nonfiction


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just booklove miscellany in general.

Super special thanks to Iphigene for creating this visually-arresting widget!

As we are now concluding our reading theme on war and poetry, refuge and peace, I thought it would be best to feature several picturebooks that talk about peacekeeping and how each one of us could do our part in being ambassadors of peace and kindness.


Fiction Titles

IMG_5822Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace

Written and Illustrated by: James Proimos
Published by: Little, Brown, and Company Books For Young Readers, 2009
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Paulie Pastrami is an eight year old boy. The first few pages of the book show just how regular a boy Paulie is. In fact, he can’t even whistle that well and more often than not, his socks don’t match. However, he has achieved something extraordinary when he was only seven years old, he achieved world peace!

He started off by attending to nature and his environment. He made an effort to water the flowers and show kindness to animals, from the really small ones to the very big ones. He also made a habit of…

“reading to trees… and listening to the river tell him stories of long ago.


Then he brought his advocacy to the classroom: he shared his lunch, helped those who are in need, and realized one of the secrets of the universe “a misunderstanding could often be settled with a cupcake.”

However, he genuinely felt that he could do so much more. And so he talked to his parents and told them that he wanted to achieve world peace by midnight. How Paulie succeeded in his quest, I shall leave for you to discover.


Proimos’ book is an empowering story that encourages a young reader to change little things that they are capable of doing within their own home, their classroom, their community to make “a world” of difference. I also liked how supportive the parents are. While other parents may have been dismissive and silenced a young boy’s evidently-impossible wishes, they helped make it happen with a “world” tour and yes, lots of cupcakes.

When I Grow Up, I Will Win The Nobel Peace PrizeIMG_5817

Written and Illustrated by: Isabel Pin Translated from the German by: Nancy Seitz
Published byFarrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006
Borrowed from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Like most of the European picturebooks that I had a chance to read, this one packs a punch that will not be soon forgotten. In each of the pages, one could find a resolution of what the young protagonist in the story would like to do when he grows older so that he will eventually win the Nobel Peace Prize. His resolve includes loving his neighbor, helping people who are in need, keeping helpless animals safe, protecting the environment, just to cite a few. However, the illustrations in the story tell a different narrative altogether.


There seems to be two different storylines here. On the one hand, there is the printed text that any adult would want to read aloud to a child. On the other hand, the illustrations highlight mischief, hijinks, and not-so-amusing-shenanigans. There is a celebration of the irreverent in the drawings, making a mockery of the kind and peaceful words found in the text. There is a lot to discuss here with young children who would most likely enjoy the contrasting visual and text narratives. It would also be good to investigate the endpapers further as they constitute an interesting thread in the storyline that is worth noting.


Teachers who wish to use this in the classroom would be glad to note that there is a brief Afterword that discusses what the Nobel Peace Prize is about and a few of the winners who have been included in the book. Here is a downloadable PDF link created by that includes possible discussion guide questions that can be raised with students. The along with Nancy Newman, Laura Slemp, and Pat Anderson have also created a very comprehensive lesson plan about the Nobel Peace Prize in this downloadable PDF link. It includes a list of the Peace Laureates and their respective fields and what they are known for, from 1906 to 2007 and detailed biographies of each one with possible student activities and discussion questions.

Nonfiction Titles

IMG_5829Peace Begins With You

Written byKatherine Scholes Illustrated by: Robert Ingpen
Published by: Sierra Club Books; Little Brown and Company, 1989
Borrowed from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

In this picturebook, Katherine Scholes explores the meaning of peace by anchoring it from within an understanding of the microcosm (the individual) and gradually moving towards the macrocosm (a societal concept of peace as an abstraction that is shared among countries).

As an individual, there is the importance of addressing one’s daily needs (food, water, shelter, clothes, medicine) as contrasted with the things one desires (a walk in a deserted beach, a warm cup of chocolate drink on a cold night, among others).


Scholes has managed to make peace tangible by talking about things that are part of one’s existence, the little things that young people take for granted. She also demonstrated how conflicts can arise if people are too similar that they end up competing for the same resources, or too different from each other that the differences breed fear, anger, contempt, and eventually, aggression.


Everybody is different.

They want and need different things, in different places,

at different times in their lives.

Peace is being allowed to be different –

and letting others be different from you.

Robert Ingpen’s drawings are soulful, realistic portrayals of the ordinary child, and the voiceless, the disenfranchised, the marginalised.


The book also speaks about choices that people make; and that while conflicts are inevitable, keeping the peace remains the better way, as nothing is worth the pain that war inevitably brings to the lives of people everywhere in the world. I like how this story manages to effectively zoom in and out of the smaller picture to the bigger picture of how peace can be interrupted and what people can do in their own little ways to become bringers of peace.

For teachers who wish to introduce the concept of peace in the classroom, here is a comprehensive downloadable PDF link created by leap.freelibrary that includes printable worksheets that can be used in the classroom in connection to peacekeeping as well as beautiful peace poems that students can read aloud.

I Have The Right To Be A ChildIMG_5851

Written byAlain Serres Pictures by: Aurelia Fronty Translated by: Helen Mixter
Published by: Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2009
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book is based on the concept of children’s human rights as established in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is the first time that I am seeing the gorgeous illustrations by Aurelia Fronty: the colors, the style, the elongated limbs of the people reminded me a little bit of Pamela Zagarenski’s paintings.

This is an empathic introduction to the rights of children everywhere in the world, particularly the 193 states – including every member of the United Nations (except Somalia, the United States and the new country of South Sudan) – who are party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


In the Afterword, it also defined clearly what the Convention is all about:

The Convention is made up of fifty-four articles, each describing a right that governments have a duty to honor and fulfill, as should everyone else. Very broadly they include the right to water, food, shelter, education and healthcare;


the right to be protected from harm; the right to take an active part in family, community and cultural life; and the right to grow to one’s fullest ability.

These rights are communicated in such crystal-clear text and gorgeous paintings in the actual book, it would make any child in the world feel worthy of love, deserving of respect, safe with the knowledge that they are valued and protected. Some of the images that caught my eye and are in keeping with our current reading theme are the following:



Sadly, so many children right now are caught in the crossfire of warring countries, never-ending factions, unceasing conflict. I come from a disadvantaged, developing country (the Philippines), and while some of what is found in the pages sound very ideal, they are very rarely practiced or could simply not be enforced in societies where survival is paramount, and child labor is seen as a matter of course, rather than an option. While it is clear that these are rights and not privileges – not all children may feel the sense of entitlement that perhaps other children coming from advantaged societies may feel. For those who wish to know more about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, here is a youtube clip created by Children’s Rights Alliance.

IMG_5871What Does Peace Feel Like?

Written and Illustrated byVladimir Radunsky
Published byAtheneum Books for Young Readers, An Anne Schwartz Book, 2004
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

In contrast to the first two nonfiction picture books shared above, Radunsky made peace more tangible by linking the concept to our five senses. He asked children from around the world how peace smells like: “… like fresh air that makes you want to go out and sleep in the sun…” or what peace looks like “… like your mom that kisses you and hugs you…” or what it sounds like “… like raindrops falling…” what it tastes like “… like vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream…” and what it feels like “… like a lot of fun because you know you are safe…”


This would be a great mentor-text for children to imagine and write for themselves what peace means to them, along with joyful illustrations that celebrate kindness, harmony, and humanity.


The glossary found at the end of the book also includes Words of Peace in approximately 189 dialects. For teachers who wish to use this book in the classroom, here is a Reading Group Guide created by Simon & Schuster that includes possible discussion questions, activities and projects as well as resources and links that teachers can explore.

Can You Say Peace?IMG_5875

Written and Illustrated byKaren Katz 
Published byHenry Holt and Company, 2006
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This picturebook is an example of what Rudine Sims Bishop calls cross-cultural literature, defined as books which carry universal themes, whereby the focus is more on commonalities that exist across all cultures rather than on societal differences. The characters may represent various cultural groups but there are few specific details allowing the reader to sufficiently develop a cultural persona.

Here, each page shows a child coming from a particular country greeting the reader and saying PEACE using his or her language/dialect.


The countries included in this book are the following: India, America, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Iran, Russia, China, France, Ghana, and Bolivia.


In the Afterword, there is a very brief discussion about the International Day of Peace declared by the United Nations to be a day of celebration on the 21st of September every year. People around the world are invited to observe this day of peace and nonviolence. There is also a glossary of terms found at the end of the book to give kids a variety of ways to say peace. For teachers who wish to make use of this in the classroom, here is a helpful downloadable PDF link created by UNICEF that provides more information about the International Day of Peace and printable worksheets that can be used in class including various activities that can be done in the classroom.

Jubilee! One Man’s Big, Bold, And Very, Very Loud Celebration Of PeaceIMG_5837

Written by: Alicia Potter Illustrated by: Matt Tavares
Published byCandlewick Press, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is the first time that I’ve heard of Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, an Irish immigrant who moved to Boston in 1849. Bringing his love for big bands, the fusion of sounds, and the harmony of various instruments coming together to create beauty, he eventually became a bandleader in Boston and led the Charlestown Band, Suffolk Band, Boston Brigade Band, and Salem Brass Band, the latter believed to be one of the finest in New England. He also founded his own ensemble called Gilmore’s Band.


Even when the Civil War broke out in 1861, Patrick made certain that his music inspired the soldiers at camp and he eventually became the bandleader for the 24th Massachusetts Regiment and they kept the soldiers’ morale high with their upbeat music and the harmony he managed to create with the little that he was given at the time. When the war ended, he had this magnificent idea of creating…

… the biggest, boldest, loudest concert the world had ever known. The music would celebrate the bravery of the soldiers! The unity of the land! The end of the war! The concert would be a peace jubilee.


Evidently, Patrick is a man of vision. Audacious in his plans and very determined to make this five-day celebration happen with thousands of musicians, one hundred choruses and the huge Temple of Peace (the venue for the event) built from scratch. Whether or not the music would be discordant and simply too loud with twelve cannons exploding and forty church bells ringing, I shall leave for you to discover.


I love everything about this book: from Tavares’ gorgeous paintings and the life story of this man who had such a big heart and a huge ear for the joy of music that he could not contain it within him. In a world that is filled with darkness and constant war, this “very, very loud celebration of peace” is sorely needed.

As I was doing a bit of research on the life of Patrick Gilmore, I discovered this youtube clip of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” which Gilmore composed when his band was attached to the 24th Massachusetts Infantry. Enjoy the music!

IMG_6409Peaceful Heroes

Written byJonah Winter Illustrated by: Sean Addy
Published byArthur A. Levine Books, 2009
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book was an unexpected find for me. I did not know that this existed, until I chanced upon it in our public library. This beautifully-illustrated picturebook tells the story of fourteen people who can rightly be termed as peace warriors: men and women who lived across the centuries, who risked their own lives to save people.

I especially liked the fact that it did not just focus on one particular religious belief, but rather cuts across various affiliations to demonstrate how peace effectively transcends cultural, religious, ethnic, even linguistic boundaries. And so, there is a brief description of Jesus of Nazareth:


alongside Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988) who devoted his entire life to helping the Pashtuns, his people, who are an ancient race who live in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


The Pashtuns have been victimized by more powerful groups and nations, particularly Great Britain who used conquer and control not just India but Pakistan too. And so khan organized a nonviolent group to defend the Pashtuns’ rights against the British colonizers.

I also especially liked the women peace warriors such as Clara Barton, a military nurse who is known as the “Angel of the Battlefield”:


And of course, there is Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma. See how powerful the illustration is below – with visual metaphors and layered imageries, I am now a fan of Sean Addy’s art:


Then there is Meena Keshwar Kamal who organized RAWA or the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan meant to provide young girls and women with health care and good education – basic human rights that are outlawed by the Taliban.

The list of names featured here also includes such notables as Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King and other names such Paul Rusesabagina and Oscar Romero among others. Definitely a must-have in every classroom. For teachers who wish to teach about peaceful heroes in the classroom, here is an amazing link from Teach for that includes even more resources as well as possible social action projects for children to do in the classroom.

And because I send you love, light, and peace this day and all days, dear friends, here is India Arie’s I Am Light.



Reading Challenge Update: 209-216 (25)



Peace Begins With You, Jubilee!, I Have The Right To Be A Child, Can You Say Peace, What Does Peace Feel Like, Peaceful Heroes

Nonfiction PictureBook Challenge: 40-45 (25)

2 comments on “[Saturday Reads] Celebrating the Light Within: List of Picturebooks about Peace – Fiction and Nonfiction

  1. Good to learn about: When I Grow Up, I Will Win The Nobel Peace Prize… thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: [BHE 183] Singapore Library Warehouse Sale 2015 | Gathering Books

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