In 2010, Carol Spiegel published Book by Book: An Annotated Guide to Young People’s Literature With Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution Themes, chock full of books that educators could use in their classrooms, libraries, and at home. As happens with book lists, some of the books in that guide are out of print. We’re publishing some of the more recent books on this topic, annotated by Carol, a long-time K‑8 educator for peace and conflict resolution.
Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem
written by Amanda Gorman
illustrated by Loren Long
Viking Press, 2021
community building, coöperation, diversity of cultures
A young girl with a very large guitar invites others as her poem unfolds in a sequence of scenes showing the young people helping others, caring for the Earth, and celebrating their diversity.
Far Apart, Close in Heart
written by Becky Birtha
illustrated by Maja Kastelic
Albert Whitman, 2017
coping, overcoming obstacles, prison
A collection of scenarios shows how various children cope when their loved ones are incarcerated. Contains tips for parents, teachers, caregivers.
I Walk with Vanessa
A Picture Book Story
about a Simple Act of Kindness
written and illustrated by Kerascoët
Schwartz & Wade, 201
This book without words shows a new student, Vanessa, who is excluded by her classmates and then encounters a boy who is mean to her. Another student observes what is happening and is bothered by it. She gets an idea and goes to Vanessa’s house to walk with her to school. Neighbor children join one by one. As they continue, more and more join them, until the end of the story when the entire set of pages is covered by a multitude of children walking with Vanessa.
written by Elizabeth Warren
illustrated by Charlene Chua
Henry Holt, 2021
community building, gender roles
After trying to engage in several activities, only to be told that they are “Not what girls do,” her mother takes Polly to a rally where Elizabeth, who is running for President, tells her, “THAT’S WHAT GIRLS DO!” Elizabeth and Polly make “a pinkie promise to remember. ” After that, Polly accomplishes several things from being brave and helping a boy find his lost dot to running for class president and learning to dream a bit.
Red: A Crayon’s Story
written and illustrated by Michael Hall
Greenwillow Books, 2021
gender roles, individual diversity, prejudice
This story can be understood by young children and has meaning for every age. This crayon cannot fulfill any of the expectations of everyone else, because he is a blue crayon with a red label. Everyone around him tries to help Red color red objects, but he can only make them blue. Finally, a boat asks him to color the water, and he finds his true calling.
Seeds of Change
written by Jen Cullerton Johnson
illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
Lee & Low Books, 2010
Earth Day, ecology, environment, overcoming obstacles
Seeds of Change tells the captivating story of Wangari Matthai of Kenya, the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Vivid artwork covers the pages with illustrations that have a stained-glass vibrancy and capture images of the story as well as its plot. The text is alive with hope that grows from Wangari’s thirst for learning, her persistence in protesting injustice, nurturing the environment, and her courage when confronting corporate greed. This is an uplifting story that teaches an important lesson in social justice without a hint of preachiness.
Small Walt and Mo the Tow
written by Elizabeth Verdick
illustrated by Marc Rosenthal
Paula Wiseman / Simon & Schuster, 2018
Gus operates Small Walt the snowplow, and Sue drives Mo the tow truck. All are needed (and the creative sound effects convey the difficulty of the task) as they rescue a driver and his car stranded in a blizzard.
The Stuff of Stars
written by Marion Dane Bauer
illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2018
diversity of individuals, prejudice
An explosion of rich illustrations and a swiftly moving poem tell the story of the Big Bang and ongoing creation. At first we see the speck that “floated, invisible a thought, weighty as God.” In the end we see “another speck [floating], invisible as dreams, special as Love.”
written by Maribeth Boelts
illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Candlewick Press, 2009
Christmas, coping, kindness
Jeremy longs for a pair of black high-top with white stripes like the other boys have. When he buys a used pair of high-tops, they don’t fit, and he has to settle for the blue Velcro shoes, given to him by his guidance counselor, Mr. Alphrey. In the end, Jeremy gives that pair to kind Antonio Parker in his class, and both play in the snow, Jeremy in his brand new boots bought by his grandmother.
Z is for Moose
written by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow Books, 2012
Zebra is directing the coloring for an alphabet book. All along, Moose tries to get on the page. He is really upset when Mouse gets the “M” page. Finally, Zebra finds a way to get Zebra’s friend Moose on the “z” page.