Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? This book takes a look at some very harsh realities in life such as war, poverty, hunger, and oppression and asks “What If?”–that is, what if things were handled differently. This book presents 15 different events in history where a single person or a group of people decided to respond to the situation in a more peaceful manner. The first example is the story of the conscientious objector, Desmond Doss, who carried a Bible instead of a gun into World War II. Desmond not only survived, but he was able to save 75 of his soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge. Another story includes the time that West African soccer star Didier Drogba used his influence to unite his country that was in the middle of a civil war. During the World Cup playoffs, Drogba was able to encourage his country to cheer as one when Ivory Coast beat Madagascar. Muhammad Ali is another example when he was jailed for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. He was stripped of his heavyweight title and had his boxing license suspended–only to be reinstated later and receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 from President Bush. This book goes on with stories of people trying to make life better for others during times of war. Some other examples include groups that provide food and comfort to refugees, clowns that offer entertainment to traumatized children, the artist Picasso who painted the picture Guernica that illustrates the graphic destruction of innocent lives, and circus performers that share the healing power of the arts.
I thought the illustrations by Serge Bloch worked well with this story because they seemed to reflect the whimsical imagination of a child asking “What if?”. For example, the soldiers did not really fight with pillows even though the illustrations show that with the Desmond Doss story–it is a way of showing soldiers using something other than a gun to fight. The illustrations did add a little levity to a more serious book, which I think might be good for a younger audience.
Anything you did not like about the book. Nothing
To whom would you recommend this book? I would recommend this book to children over the age of eight years. Each story goes into a bit of detail which lends itself to an older audience. It is also a great tool to introduce children to some of these events in history and might encourage them to explore more on their own. I did find myself looking up some more details on each story as I was reading this book. This would be a great book for a child that is interested in historical events.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries, anyone who works with children over the age of eight years old.
Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, not only is it an informative book about historical events, it encourages children to think outside the box and realize there are other ways to handle a situation.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Kristin Guay, former youth services librarian.
Date of review: May 24, 2020