We have two libraries in our town. One is in Alamogordo (our city), about ten minutes from our house. The other library is on Holloman Air Force Base, our base where my husband is stationed. They have story time on the same day, at the same time. I’ve always gone to story time on base, primarily because afterwards I can go grocery shopping and we can eat lunch with daddy.
I noticed the library had a new acquisition in the children’s room: Why War Is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker.
Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about the book.
In a startlingly graphic exploration of the horrors of war, Vitale (When the Wind Stops) first paints folk-like landscapes in his signature style, showing graceful, brown-skinned mothers cuddling their children, and birds soaring through the jungle. Then he crushes them, covers them with gray paint, or smears horrid, waxy substances over them, and collages the results—which, like the fruits of war, are the stuff of nightmares. Walker’s (There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose, Smelling Me) text is equally frightening. Of a “blissful” mother and child, she writes, “They do not smell War… Marching slowly/ toward them.” She shifts into second person: “War tastes terrible/ & smells/ Bad… You could die/ While/ Choking/ &/ Holding/ Your/ Nose.” Accompanying the latter passage, Vitale shows a creature made of some unspeakable, dripping, brown and green muck, in whose depths plastic soldiers are buried and whose face has the shape of a skull. The final spread offers a view from inside a deep well. Its walls are encrusted with some brackish substance, and 11 dark faces—mothers, children, a man in a suit—peer down into it. “Now, suppose,” Walker concludes, “You/ Become War/ It happens/ To some of/ The nicest/ People/ On earth:/ & one day/ You have/ To drink/ The/ Water/ In this place.” Leaving kids feeling more aware than ever of their helplessness in the face of real and terrifying issues beyond their control, this book may be even more disturbing than a fact-based presentation. Ages 4-8.
Take a look at the book. Is it true that war is always a bad idea? As a part of the US military force, I recognize the horror of war. I believe war is a terrible thing, but sometimes the horror of war is necessary. If my husband and I did not believe this, we would not be a part of our military.
Is there never honor in war? Does all war kill indiscriminately? Does war ever care about the civilians going about their daily lives? This book shows the violence and evil and none of the good. It is not a good book on war for any child, let alone for those whose parents are a part of the US military.
Would you give this book to a child whose father or mother is deployed? Training for a mission? How do you pray for your pilot daddy, when you’re given a book telling you that war never cares for people, old buildings, and the environment?
I’ve found a number of children’s books on war, and never felt so angry as this. There are far better ways to teach children than this. This book has no place in a US military library.
Next week, we’ll be at the library in town. We’ll eat lunch with Daddy another day.
p.s. In all of the air force libraries, it appears to be only two places: here at Holloman, and Ellsworth Library in South Dakota.
Lyn Marshall says
Have you considered putting your analysis in writing, with a copy both to the head librarian and the base commander. It might not accomplish anything, but then again it might get someone’s attention.
Yes, we have. Lee checked the book out yesterday, and we’ve been talking about what to do. I’ll refine my observations and thoughts with the book in front of me. I was too aghast to think clearly at the time, and I forgot to check out the book. 🙂
It’s such a naive approach, too. (The author’s…to war.) And typical of our inward-looking nation’s tendency to Westernize even the thinking of other countries.
We’ve not really discussed the War much, but one thing that I think it’s important for children to know is that the powers that we’re fighting against (whether or not the fight itself is worth continuing at this point) do not at all consider civilians, old people, and the environment. And except for the fact that that particular culture tends to celebrate violence and horrors against enemies – even in front of small children – perhaps the book might be useful in their libraries…!
…the old “people” there, should be old “buildings”! I was trying to parallel the post above. lol
LOL I knew what you meant, I think. 🙂 Anyway, when you look over time, it’s clear that we haven’t as humans considered old buildings, the environment, civilians. So there’s a part of me that does agree with the description, if it wasn’t for the “ALL” and “ALWAYS” and “NEVER” communicated stridently by the author. And we might ask, is this topic even necessary at a young age, but Walker makes a valid observation: fighting to solve problems is taught from a very young age. It is true that many adults do not know how to solve differences peacefully; they never learned as children. Wouldn’t it be a great book that might teach through a positive example of peacemaking, without being overly didactic or heavy-handed?
It would indeed. “Let each esteem the other better than themselves” is a foreign concept to our humanity!