Let's begin the new year with an inspiring list of books about peace, shall we? Goodness knows we need it. These picture books teach children about peace through a variety of approaches. Some use poetry and metaphor, some are direct, others ask questions and some profile peacemakers. A few books also mention war, but for the most part these are peace books, not books about the horrors of war.
I have separated these books about peace into two main categories below—peace picture books, and biographies of peacemaking women and men. Plus there is a bonus book all the way at the very end! As always you can visit my enormous master list of books for kids for anything on your book wish list. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Picture Books about Peace
A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story by Caren Stelson, illustrated by Akira Kusaka. This is an incredibly moving true story that speaks to the experience of living through war and surviving the aftermath. Grandmother's bowl sits full of food on the Yasui family table. The bowl is passed from mother to daughter, its exact origin unknown. Sachiko describes living through the war in Nagasaki, watching the contents of the bowl get smaller and smaller until the family must flee their home. Returning in the aftermath, the Sachiko's father miraculously finds the bowl, unharmed, in the piles of rubble. The family now fills the bowl to remember the lost and give thanks for peace.
A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley. I have recently fallen in love with Kerley's photograph books for National Geographic. I featured another one on my list of books about diversity and this one is just as gorgeous and thoughtful. The text asks kids (and adults) to reflect upon simple acts during the day that can bring peace: play, making friends, meditation, even taking a bus. An end note from the president of the United States Institute of Peace expands on practical ways to foster peace around the world. Any of Kerley's works would fit right into any collection of books about peace for kids.
Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin. Delicate and intricate drawings fill this book, its pages littered with famous quotes about peace. The main text asks the reader to think about what it would take to bring peace to the world. When you reach the center of the book, the text reverses itself, coming full circlel. A book to pour over and ponder.
Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. A rhyming story takes kids on a journey to discover how simple experiences can offer individuals peace. Peace can be an offering, or gratitude, or friendship, for example. Each ideas is expanded upon and encourages children to find peace and hope even during life's disappointments and sorrows.
Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz. Katz's bright illustrations accompany a simple text that teach the reader how to say peace in different languages. Each page spread introduces a child from another country and how he or she says peace in his or her language. Written for the United Nations International Day of Peace, this is great for toddlers and preschoolers.
The Peace Book by Todd Parr. Bless you Todd Parr, for writing a picture book with a positive attitude for every meaningful subject you a parent might want to discuss with her kids.
Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts by Anna Grossnickle Hines. Colorful quilts form the backdrop illustrations for a diverse collection of poems about peace. Poems explore peace in a number of different settings.
The General by Janet Charters, illustrated by Michael Foreman. General Jodhpur would like to be the most famous and best general ever. He keeps his soldiers busy readying their weapons for war. But one day he falls off his horse and discovers that flowers and nature may in fact be much better than fighting.
Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. No doubt you are already familiar with the classic book and its message that taking a peaceful approach to life will be much more relaxing that staying angry and charging around all the time.
Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace by James Proimos. Paulie's goal is to achieve world peace before bedtime. Can he do it? This is a fun read and kids will enjoy the lighthearted approach to a serious subject and parents will get a kick out of some of the pun-like humor. But for all its joking, kids will still get the message that even though they are "just kids," they can help achieve world peace through small but significant actions.
The Peace Bell by Margi Preus, illustrated by Hideko Takahashi. Yuko's grandmother narrates a memory from her childhood when her town's temple bell was salvaged to support the war effort in Japan. Temple bells all across Japan were used for scrap metal but this one surprisingly avoided that fate and was found in a shipyard after the war and returned to the village by Americans as a symbol of peace and friendship. More information is included in an historical note.
What Does Peace Feel Like? by Vladimir Radunsky. Each page spread asks a question that links peace and one of the five senses. What does Peace taste like? What does Peace sound like? The answers and the children who gave them are then listed against a backdrop of bright and bold illustrations. Use this book as a starting point to ask children to express their own metaphor for peace.
Biography Picture Books about Peace
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandh and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk. The story is narrated by then-12 year old Gandhi’s grandson, Arun. Arun goes to live with his grandfather, which was considered a great honor. One day his grandfather gets angry, a surprise to Arun. Gandhi explains to his grandson that anger is a normal human emotion, that people must work to conquer and transform so that it can be used for a good purpose. This is a marvelous, must-read book that will encourage your kids to think about the role emotions play in the choices we make towards peaceful solutions.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson, illustrated by David Shannon. Stunning illustrations help tell this story of the famed Mohawk at the center of the story of the peace which led to the forming of theSix Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Hiawatha begins the story in a state of anger but he is chosen to by the peacemaker and help bring the warring tribes together. By the way, if you think you know all about Hiawatha because of Longfellow, think again. A terrific end note gives children further historical information.
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She was recognized for her work restoring trees to Kenya. The wonderful thing about Maathai’s story is that it involves the cooperation of an extended community of women and will make kids aware of the power of individuals to bring positive, long-lasting global change. As always, Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are stunning. In addition, I enjoyed Jeannette Winter’s version of Wangari’s story in the picture book, Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa. You can find several other books about Wangari at your library, too.
Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya, illustrated by L. C. Wheatley. A biography of the young Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Malala has become an inspiring voice for peace and education and even though her story is frightening at times, this is a good, age appropriate picture book.
Peaceful Heroes by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Sean Addy. This book is a collection of short biographies of historical figures who devoted their lives to a peaceful cause. Individuals cover a diverse field, from Jesus of Nazareth, to Clara Barton, to Meena Keshwar Kamal. I would have liked to meet more pre 19th C. figures (Jesus is the only one) but I loved the multicultural focus of the book. There is an excellent mix of men and women, as well. The main text is accompanied by large, illustrated words that illuminate different aspects of peace: love, silence, care and so forth.
Paths to Peace: People Who Changed the World by Jane Breskin Zalben. This is another collection of short biographies about peacemakers and as there is not too much cross-over with Peaceful Heroes, I encourage you to pick up both books.
For biographies of peace warriors during the American Civil Rights Movement visit: Civil Rights Picture Books.
More Peace Stories
Peace Tales Margaret Read MacDonald. Reading aloud to my kids has given me an intense appreciation for the power of folktales, as I have mentioned many times. MacDonald has spent most of her life collecting traditional folk stories and lore and I have recommended her picture books on several occasions. I highly recommend that you check out her anthologies as well. I love the subtitle, World Folktales to Talk About. Indeed, for that is exactly what your kids will want to do after you read them these stories.
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