The Common Good
December 1994-January 1995

For Kids of All Ages

by Franzmeier | December 1994-January 1995

Books for pleasure and meaning.

Books that provide children with information and alternatives to violence and offer models of peacefulness are all-too-difficult to find. My criteria for selecting books to review include the highlighting of these tenets.

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Eileen Spinelli's Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is an all-time favorite book! Children delight in the illustrations: They enjoy searching for the mouse that appears in each scene within Mr. Hatch's house, and are angered when the postal carrier asks for the valentine back.

The message that "somebody loves you" changes Mr. Hatch's outlook on existence. Once lonely and stuck in a rut-eating a mustard and cheese sandwich, coffee, and a prune (for dessert) for your lunch every day strikes me as being in a rut-his life is transformed, opening him to joy and love freely given and received. Through a simple act, a new behavior pattern is learned and, with or without the valentine candy, Mr. Hatch discovers he is loved and can love others. Per-forming those random acts of kindness is important!

Jon-Jon and Annette, by Elzbieta, is a morality tale that reminds the reader of the one thing even war cannot destroy: hope. Elzbieta, a popular French children's author, has created a book that is enjoyable to read and carries an important message.

The simple collage illustrations are often framed by a window or door through which Jon-Jon, a rabbit, is viewing the consequences of war. This war has separated him from his best rabbit friend, Annette, and he doesn't understand why. But as young people are often able to be naively honest and courageous, the barriers of fear and hate do not stop these two rabbits from continuing a friendship, even though they are on opposite sides of a brook that is surrounded by thorn bushes.

Welcoming Babies is a book helpful for those who have welcomed a baby into the world during the past year, or who look forward to a new birth in 1995. This book, authored by Margy Burns Knight and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien, provides a multicultural view of how people from different faiths and different backgrounds greet new life. Like the other books written and illustrated by this duo-Who Belongs Here (about refugees) and Talking Walls (about the walls we have constructed in our world)-facts and background information support the main themes in a supplemental section at the end of the book.

DO YOU know of an adolescent who thinks she or he can change the world? It's part of the territory with teen-agers. It's Our World, Too! Stories of Young People Who Are Making a Difference is a book that provides positive role models of people who have made small and significant changes in their corner of the world. The book opens with a history of youth activism, beginning in the 1770s when young apprentices left oppressive masters to battle British soldiers. It proceeds through the 1830s when child labor laws were protested to 1963 when more than a thousand children marched into Birmingham.

Part one includes 14 true stories about modern-day young activists, ages 8 to 17. The vignettes are diverse and include Latino football players taking a stand against racism, a young girl making a bold speech against gangs, a pre-teen boy rebuilding bicycles and giving them to homeless kids, and a 15-year-old who organized classmates to challenge tuna companies to "harvest" in more humane ways. Each of these stories could provide a spark of inspiration to a young person who has strong beliefs about an issue and is itching to do something about it.

The second part of the book includes a handbook with practical ideas about how to get started and tools available to bring about change. The format of the book is pleasing and engaging, with inspirational quotes along the margins, many photographs of young people in action, and interesting graphics.

New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams is an international magazine for every girl who wants her voice heard and her dreams taken seriously. This 1-year-old magazine provides a indispensable alternative to magazines promoting the latest fashion trends and body-enhancing products. New Moon focuses on the inner beauty and potential of young girls. Its editorial board is comprised of girls, ages 8 to 14, with girl contributors from all over the world.

The current issue focuses on books and authors, with Madeleine L'Engle offering advice to young people hoping to be authors one day: "Keep an honest, unpublishable journal that you don't show anybody, read because you can't be a good writer unless you read, and then write." In another interview author Marie Lee says, "If you aren't true to yourself, you won't be able to write well. You can only write what you know and feel."

The magazine's regular features include sections such as "Global Village" (about a girl from a different country and culture), "Interviews," "Dear Luna" (letters from readers), "The Experiment" (a do-it-yourself science or math project), and "Blue Jeannes" (a cartoon about everyday life for two best friends).

New Moon Parenting, a magazine for parents who care about girls, is also available. A subscription to each separately is $25 for six issues; a yearly subscription to both is $45.

Lois Miriam Wilson's Miriam, Mary and Me is unique in its telling of modern-day stories of biblical women on the margins of society. Each story is directed toward children, emphasizing some of the unusual and lesser-known stories about women in scripture. The stories are rooted in a Judaic-Christian knowledge of a God who sets people free and requires justice and mercy, in both the personal sphere and the public socioeconomic-political sphere.

A preface for adults, including background information and additional books for further reading, opens each section. Although not written for any particular age of children or in a Sunday School format, the book would be useful in supplementing curriculum or in reading one-on-one with children.

KAREN FRANZMEIER is an elementary school peace educator and a member of the Community of St. Martin's in Minneapolis. These books can be ordered from St. Martin's Table, 2001 Riverside Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55454.

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