Finding similarities, differences, and peace
By Marthe Jocelyn
Illustrated by Tom Slaughter
Tundra, 24 pp., ages 1-5, $15.95
By Arlene Alda
Tundra, 32 pp., ages 2-5, $16.95
AFTER GANDHI: One Hundred Years
of Nonviolent Resistance
By Anne Sibley OBrien and Perry Edmond OBrien
Charlesbridge, 181 pp., ages 9-12, $24.95
HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS
By Alec Greven Illustrated
by Kei Acedera
Collins, 46 pp., ages 9-12, $9.99
"Same Same," an inventive picture book concoction by Marthe Jocelyn with illustrations by Tom Slaughter, proves that the brilliance of concept books lies in ingenuity and simplicity.
The premise of "Same Same" could not be more fundamental: Show a grouping of similar objects, then select one to demonstrate similarities among an entirely different group. So a double spread of round things - an apple, globe, and tambourine - changes, with a turn of the page, to things that make music, including a tambourine, guitar, and bird. The bird joins a page of things that fly and so on, twisting and turning elegantly toward its end.
The text is simplicity itself, as are Slaughter's bold, graphic images, in red, yellow, and blue (plus black and white). The entire book looks simultaneously MOMA chic and child-friendly. Very young children will enjoy finding what is the same, and slightly older young children will have fun guessing which object will carry over into the next. Beginning readers can use this as a first primer, which is neither dull nor tame.
"Hello, Good-Bye" by Arlene Alda presents contrasting images and words in Arlene Alda's trademark bright photo-journalistic style. "Wet" means an umbrella in the rain; "dry" a sun umbrella at the beach; "cold" shows a snow-laden evergreen, "hot" a coconut palm. "Asleep, awake" gives us a curled-up napping cat versus a wide-awake fence prowler. "Alone" is one sad looking cocker spaniel, but three dogs romp "together." Beginning readers and toddlers will delight in the large, realistic photographs.
The book's appendix helpfully lists what we have been looking at: a duck family in Lenox, Belgian canals, farmer's market berries in Vermont. Some word books talk down to babies and little ones, implying that the world is a kitsch and narrow place. This is never the case with Alda's books - her world is large, international, many-colored, many-mooded, and simply beautiful.
"After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance" by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien reminds us that even blessed peacemakers can begin as angry revolutionaries. Rosa Parks was not the mild-mannered, exhausted lady we encounter in books: " 'The only tired I was, was tired of giving in,' she said." She watched her grandfather sit with a rifle in his lap while Ku Klux Klansmen threatened their neighborhood: " 'whatever happened, I wanted to see it. . . . I wanted to see him shoot that gun.' "
South Africa's Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress were not pacifists initially, either. "Convinced that the government's violence would never change without armed resistance, the fiery lawyer had helped form a military group to train soldiers to fight back."
Yet each of the heroes and heroines of "After Gandhi" came to recognize the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance. Many felt as Mohandas Gandhi did: He imagined nonviolent action with the goal not of beating opponents, but of winning them over. Within two years he found an Indian name for his idea - satyagraha, which combined the word for truth, satya, with the word agraha, for firmness or force. He believed that refusing to harbor violence of any kind was a choice that came out of strength, not weakness.
Peace lovers encounter violence all their lives: Gandhi and Martin Luther King were assassinated; Nelson Mandela beaten and jailed; the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh exiled from his native Vietnam. Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi has lived under house arrest on and off since 1989. Nor does such work necessarily lead to recognition in one's lifetime: Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times, but never won the award. "After Gandhi" presents a rich if unevenly illustrated encyclopedia of the history of nonviolent resistance during the past 100 years. It is an invaluable resource for peace studies and young peace lovers.
"How to Talk to Girls" offers advice for lovelorn children straight from the horse's mouth. Author Alec Greven wrote this book as a 9-year-old wunderkind. Anyone who missed this book when it first came out needs to run out immediately and grab three or four copies.
Noam Chomsky once commented that if an alien came to this planet, he would naturally assume that 9- and 10-year-olds ran it since they are our sanest, most sensible residents. Greven proves the point. "I had a crush on a girl in preschool," he writes. "Then my family had to move, so I had to let her wash out of my mind." Good idea. What else does he offer? "Control your hyperness (cut down on sugar if you need to) . . . Make sure you have good friends who won't try to take the girl you like. Finally, you have to be able to get over a crush if it doesn't work out. A crush is like a love disease. It can drive you mad. Try not to let it get you down."
Kei Acedera's black-and-white drawings make a perfect accompaniment to the text, never distracting from the charming children's quality of the whole. This book is perfect for the broken-hearted, the depressed, and the perplexed - just about everyone. Even the bright red cover is cheering. For what ails the romantic spirit, take two, and call me in the morning.
Liz Rosenberg is the author most recently of "Demon Love," a poetry collection, and "Home Repair," her first adult novel. She teaches English at Binghamton University.