Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, March 11, 2013

One Plus One Plus One Plus One...Equals Everyone

Nearly four years ago Liberty Mutual, an insurance company, began airing a commercial based upon one person helping another.  What made this commercial unique was someone else witnessed this act of kindness.  When they in turn offered assistance to another this, too, was observed.  A single act had created a chain reaction of goodwill.

For many years I have admired and collected the work of author/illustrator Wendy Anderson Halperin. When I first read her new title, Peace (Atheneum Books For Young Readers), I was captivated by the beauty in the simplicity of her narrative and captured with the intricacy of her illustrations.  Much like the chain reaction of goodwill, she explores where peace begins.

For there to be peace in the world...
...there must be peace in nations.

From the world to nations to cities to neighborhoods to schools to homes and finally to our hearts, we follow this concept to the single act; a point of origin.  When readers hit this center, changes occur as we textually zoom back to the place of beginning.

For each sentence, displayed within a two-page spread, we read a series of quotes relative to peace; how we treat one another, good actions, anger, speaking up for truth, empathy, or forgiveness.  Quotes have been selected from such notable names as Confucius, Albert Einstein, William Faulkner, Leo F. Buscaglia, Desmond Tutu and Mark Twain.  This brief but profound storyline is placed, as are all the quotes, on the only strips of white space in this title's illustrations, woven into the design of each.

Wendy Anderson Halperin begins her story with a starry expanse of sky, a sliver of moon overlooking the earth.  From there until the final pages we see a series of small panels pieced together to make a breathtaking whole on each of the two-page visuals.  Each panel is a story in and of itself.

When she illustrates peace in the nations both times, she purposely includes nature too; various biomes on land, sea and air, above and below ground.  This reinforces the belief peace for humans is not to be obtained in isolation; inclusion of the world in which we live is necessary. Different perspectives of the planet, positioning of the continents, are shown within a circle with people from all walks of life, hands clasped, on the perimeter.  These same geographical locales are shown in the succeeding illustration with babies from around the world shown in a row over a line of worlds, rotated.

As readers are turning pages getting closer to the center; ...there must be peace in our hearts, by paying close attention to each panel it will soon be obvious what each represents.  Halperin is visualizing opportunities, scenarios needing change.  The group of worlds in the beginning and end are placed individually, one at a time, in a central location of each illustration to remind readers of the global goal, the dream.

The center two pages are a series of twenty pictures hand drawn by students depicting the meaning of peace for each of them.  Working from the center to the book's conclusion, the meaningful actions are happening, some more quickly than others which heightens anticipation and interest.  At times people are journeying from one aspect (over a series of pages) to another to complete their peaceful project.

Using watercolor and pencil Halperin forms these miniature worlds within a greater landscape employing meticulous detail; animated expressions and emotions, architectural design, and plant and animal life.  Although in full color, there is a softness, a warmth, to her signature pictures.    You can't help but feel a sense of peace as you careful look over each individual depiction.  Endpapers in two shades of green feature flowers and leaves; opening and closing this title with the same calm.

In Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin readers can clearly follow the path to the hope her words introduce but in which her illustrations bring understanding and the means to accomplish this, one person at a time.  It should be noted the dedication is to your senses; to seeing, to touching, to smelling, to tasting and to hearing.  Here she offers initially the means to be more aware of how we use each of our senses toward peace.

To Tasting
May you make choices in what you eat to promote peace.  May your thoughts and efforts help feed the hungry.  May you help keep our waters, lakes, rivers and oceans clean for the thirsty.

In addition to the link to her main website embedded in her name, readers may want to visit her website, Drawing Children Into Peace.  She has another outstanding site titled Drawing Children Into Reading.  Both are full of ideas, examples and videos on extending the meaning, the message, of her book outside its pages, leading to discussion and activities.

Here is one of many videos.

 This past Saturday I had the good fortune at the Michigan Reading Association conference in Grand Rapids to meet Wendy Anderson Halperin.  She is as lovely as the books she writes and illustrates; a living example of having found peace in her heart.  Here are a few pictures.

Here is the full length Liberty Mutual commercial.


  1. What a beautiful inscription! The book sounds lovely -- how wonderful you got to meet Wendy :).

    P.S. I want that rocking chair!

    1. I feel so fortunate she was there. I have admired her work for so many years. I was probably grinning like the Cheshire Cat the whole time. I would love to have that rocking chair too!