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Conflict: Awareness, Understanding, and Resolution

By Barbara A. Ward
 | Sep 24, 2018

A quick glance at a newspaper or social media reveals that conflict is everywhere–within families, in the workplace, and among nations. It’s clear that the world would be a better place if we approached one another with empathy and kindness. This week’s column highlights books about conflicts and resolutions in various forms, even when they take place within us.

Ages 4–8

An Anty-War Story. Tony Ross. 2018. Andersen.

An Antywar StoryA patriotic ant named Douglas wants to do his bit for Antworld. His dreams of being able "to fit in, to carry food, and be in the beautiful line” as a worker ant are left unrealized as he is assigned to duty as a soldier, responsible for defending his homeland from intruders. Although he proudly marches in formation with the other soldier ants, his happiness is fleeting as war brings its inevitable conclusion. The final pages show the violence and destruction inherent in war, featuring a monument listing all the ants killed in the conflict, Douglas among them. This unexpectedly poignant anti-war allegory will leave some readers puzzled and perturbed while provoking rich discussion among others.

The Turtle Ship. Helena Ku Rhee. Ill. Colleen Kong-Savage. 2018. Shen’s Books/Lee & Low.

The Turtle ShipYoung Sun-sin, who spends his days in his seaside village with his turtle, Gobugi, dreams of traveling the world. When the ruler of Korea announces a contest to design a battleship, Sun-sin realizes his pet turtle is a good model. Although Sun-sin is belittled by others at the competition, the emperor watches as Gobugi fends off the attack of a cat, thanks to its shell and ability to retract its limbs, and realizes that the small turtle’s attributes offer possibilities for designing a warship. Sun-sin’s dreams of travel come true when he and his family are invited to sail with the royal navy on a Turtle Ship. He later becomes a famous navy admiral, but eventually finds more contentment in the peacefulness of home with Gobugi. Detailed collage illustrations beautifully set the scene for this story, loosely inspired by the story of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and his Turtle Ship. The afterword includes a photograph of an actual Turtle Ship, compact and impregnable.

A World of Kindness. Ann Featherstone. 2018. Pajama Press.

A World of KindnessNine children’s book illustrators (Rebecca Bender, Suzanne del Rizzo, Brian Deines, Wallace Edwards, Kim La Fave, Dean Griffiths, Manon Gauthier, Francois Thisdale, and Tara Anderson) offer their artistic interpretations of what it means to be kind and avoid conflict by understanding others. Whether through courtesy and thoughtfulness toward others, reaching out to a new friend, or comforting someone in pain, each of us can make the world a better place through the simplest of actions. The child-friendly questions posed and the scenarios depicted provide food for thought and discussion about the importance of taking action. Ultimately, young readers may realize that kindness starts with one small act, rippling outward to touch others and improve the world.

Ages 9–11

Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid (Kid Beowulf #3)Alexis E. Fajardo. 2018. Andrews McMeel.

Kid BeowulfIn this graphic novel, unlikely siblings Grendel and Beowulf find themselves in Spain, where a band of travelers mistakes them for gods and plans to use them in a sacrificial ritual. Their storyline eventually intersects with that of Rodrigo, a promising young knight whose fortune goes awry after he kills the father of his beloved, Ximena, and he is exiled from his homeland. Forced to become a mercenary soldier, Rodrigo eventually amasses a large army and gains back all that he has lost, including the woman he loves. Middle grade readers will be swept up by this epic drama and impressed by the honor of Rodrigo Díaz, the man who came to be called El Cid. The illustrations are filled with color and detail, bringing this centuries-old tale to life.A “More to Explore!” section includes author’s notes providing background for the graphic fantasy, a glossary of characters, fun facts, and a bibliography.

The Sinking of the Vasa: A Shipwreck of Titanic Proportions. Russell Freedman. Ill. William Low. 2018. Henry Holt.

The Sinking of the VasaIt has been said that pride comes before a fall, and this nonfiction account of a Swedish king’s hubris demonstrates this theory perfectly. Intent on intimidating those who might consider opposing him or his kingdom, King Gustavus II Adolf commissioned the construction of a mighty warship with 64 bronze cannons and various ornate works of art at an enormous cost. However, the king overestimated the ship’s capability to carry so many weighty weapons, and the Vasa never made it into battle. In fact, the ship sank on its maiden voyage, traveling less than a mile from shore. As fascinating as the details provided about its construction are, perhaps more interesting are the efforts to discover the reason for the ship's sinking and then, centuries later, to bring the Vasa out of the depths of the sea and restore it. Created with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, the illustrations brim with life and detail. Readers will feel as though they are along the dock in 1628 watching as the ship sinks and many lives are lost. Now that the Vasa is back on dry land and restored, it has become a popular tourist attraction in Stockholm, Sweden.

Ages 12–14

D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History. Deborah Hopkinson. 2018. Scholastic.

D-DayArguably, the pivotal event of World War II, D-Day (June 6, 1944) was the largest invasion by sea in history. German Führer Adolph Hitler was firmly in control of Europe. The United States and other allied countries knew that they must come up with a plan that would strike at the heart of the Nazi stronghold. In this account of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, Hopkinson relies on government documents and personal anecdotes to highlight the contributions made by those involved in this enormous undertaking to free Europe.

My Life Uploaded. Rae Earl. 2018. Imprint/Macmillan.

My Life UploadedAs is the case for many girls her age, 13-year-old Millie Porter longs to be noticed by her peers. But being noticed for the right things instead of what she does wrong is easier said than done, especially when Erin Breeler, a popular classmate, always seems to be there when she's messing up. Since Erin has a social media presence, she is quick to post images and comments. Millie is a sensible sort, and after listening to her best friend, Lauren, bemoans her living situation and how fed up she is with her mother's neat freak of a boyfriend, she starts her own video blog, or "vlog." But Erin can’t stand to have anyone else gain attention, and an online war between the two girls begins. The fact that Canadian transplant, Danny Trudeau, seems to like Millie’s vlog adds fuel to the fire, and their classmates take sides.

Ages 15+

The Fandom. Anna Day. 2018. Chicken House/Candlewick.

The FandomIt's no secret that some fans will go to great lengths to meet their idols, even almost becoming a part of that imaginary world. In this book, Violet (along with her two best friends Alice and Katie, and her younger brother) heads off to Comic-Con to meet the actors from The Gallows Dance, a book that has enchanted all of them except Katie for years. Alice even writes fan fiction set in that world. Dressed as their favorite characters, they are set to get autographs and photos when a strange accident thrusts them into the world in which the story takes place. Suddenly, Violet and company find themselves in the midst of a war between “the Gens,” genetically altered humans, and “the Imps,” lesser, imperfect citizens. As Violet tries to stick to the book’s plot, she isn’t sure how to end the conflict and have the four of them come out of it safe and sound and back home.

Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves #1). Kristina Pérez. 2018. Imprint/Macmillan.

Sweet Black WavesBased on the classic story of Tristan and Isolde, this version focuses on Branwen of Ivernic (Ireland), who befriends and falls in love with Tristan, whose country Kernyvak (Cornwall) is in conflict with her own. To achieve peace between the two nations, the Queen of Ivernic decides to marry off her daughter, Esseult (affectionately called Essy) to King Marc of Cornwall. Branwen and Tristan (the nephew of King Marc) accompany Essy as she reluctantly sails to meet her husband-to-be. But when Essy and Tristan drink a potion intended for Essy and King Marc, they are irresistibly attracted to one another, culminating in a shipboard tryst. Naturally, Branwen’s heart is broken, and she ponders how much she must sacrifice to achieve peace between the two lands. This well-written debut novel effectively immerses readers in a time and place from long, long ago.

The War Below. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. 2018. Scholastic.

The War BelowThis companion book to Making Bombs for Hitler (2017) follows Luka as he escapes from a work camp by smuggling himself out among corpses and tries to make his way back to Kviv to find his father and mother. Consumed with guilt for leaving behind his best friend, Lida, Luka swears that he will somehow find her. He is poorly prepared for the journey since he has no food and is barely clothed, but he finds help from a kindhearted farm couple with a secret of their own, a savvy refugee, Martina, with useful wilderness skills, and members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. And knowing something about medicine, Luka helps his companions, but losses take an emotional toll on him. The plight of Ukrainians like Luka who had to contend with enemies on both fronts, Hitler’s Germans and Stalin’s Soviets, is highlighted in this historical novel.

Barbara A. Ward teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy at Washington State University, Pullman. She spent 25 years teaching in the public schools of New Orleans, where she worked with students at every grade level, from kindergarten through high school as well as several ability levels. She is certified in elementary education, English education, and gifted education. She holds a bachelor's in communications, a master's in English education from the University of Tennessee and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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