Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

No Matter How Small, Retain Them All

When your family does not have a lot materially you learn to use everything you have.  Glass, plastic and cardboard containers are used for other purposes than their original intent.  You get your cousin's outgrown clothing and it's then passed on to your younger sister.  Each school year you are allowed one new pair of shoes for everyday wear and if you've grown another pair just for church or special occasions.  No morsel of food is wasted.  When you leave a room the lights are turned off.  The water faucet and shower are never left running.  Your family has a huge vegetable garden and the summer and fall mean lots of canning and freezing.  Conserving resources means less money, the little money you have, is spent and more is saved.  This life style is not easy for children to understand but it teaches you to appreciate what you do have and to help those who have less than you.

In an equally beautiful companion to Grandfather Gandhi (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 11, 2014) authors Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus with illustrations by Evan Turk created Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, August 30, 2016).  The world saw a man of many talents, a beacon for passive resistance.  A boy saw someone else.

The world knows him as the Mahatma, Great Soul.
To me, he is Grandfather.  

Living at the Sevagram ashram, the grandson learns to live life as naturally as possible from sunrise to sunset.  Morning prayers are followed by days of work to maintain the life style of a simple and nonviolent people, numbering three hundred fifty.  Life in the ashram requires the residents to observe eleven vows.

The grandson struggles with

the vow not to waste.

He cannot see the connection between nonviolence and waste.  Bapuji asks the boy to be patient but a boy can only be patient for so long.  He welcomes the visit to the Nature Cure Clinic with his grandfather.  As he joins thousands listening to his grandfather his confusion on this vow continues but the words spoken by Bapuji still calm his soul.

One day while at Poona the grandson tosses the stub of a pencil away in the grass.  It's too small for him to use any longer.  When the boy asks for a new pencil a kind conversation follows with the child leaving, a flashlight in hand, to try to find the discarded pencil in the dark.  Hours later he locates the pencil, returning to his grandfather.  He still can't understand the tie between the pencil and nonviolence.

Back at the ashram Grandfather Gandhi works with his grandson.

"Waste is a violent action. ..."

He asks him to make a tree with violence as the trunk and branches for passive and physical violence.  The leaves are examples of each.  As the tree grows and grows the visual impact constructs a bridge between the pencil and violence in the boy's mind.  He realizes one of life's greatest truths.

At the close of the title Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus speak about the impact of passive violence.  It is a

fuel supply

for physical violence.  Examples of passive violence are shared.  They ask all readers to take the Be The Change Pledge.

What stands out for us in this story is the voice of Arun.  He speaks with great respect for Grandfather Gandhi but also candidly reveals his confusion.  In his wisdom and love Grandfather Gandhi allows the simplest action to be a catalyst.

Sentences, with vivid descriptions, convey life in the ashram and the interactions between the grandfather and his grandson.  The inclusion of the conversation between Arun and Grandfather Gandhi after he throws away his pencil shows us the true character of both as do the chats back at the ashram.  Grandfather Gandhi provides the impetus but Arun is granted the right to figure out the answer to his question on his own.  This is a powerful lesson taught by a master teacher. Here is a sample passage.

I set off into the dark.  My face burned with shame.  Grandfather had already taught me so much, and here I had more to learn.  I was a disappointment---to him, to myself.
I retraced my steps.  Past the bench with the broken leg.  Past a pack of stray dogs.  I stopped when I came to the scrubby grass that I'd cut across hours earlier.
Kneeling, I ran my fingers through the coarse stalks.
Above, the stars seemed to mock me.  Find it, find it, they twinkled, taunting.

All of the images rendered by Evan Turk in

 watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, cotton, gouache, white china marker, colored drawing pencils, and embroidery thread

is a luminous reflection of the life work of Mahatma Gandhi.  The matching dust jacket and book case speak to the single item which launches a valued lesson.  It demonstrates the affection of Grandfather Gandhi for Arun.  At the same time we can see the questioning behind Arun's gaze.  The intricate folds in the clothing and the stitching on the tree are a hint of the astounding illustrations within the body of the book.  On the back, to the left, is a geometric layout of the praise given to Grandfather Gandhi by professional reviews.

There is a deeper, richer sense in the color palette of this title with lots of red, orange, blue and purple.  Swirling blue outlines like clouds or flowers or rolling hills fill a red-speckled background on the opening endpapers.  On the closing endpapers the same pattern is evident but the outlines are red on a pale variegated yellow background.  A gorgeous, textured background in hues of red is the canvas for a single stitched stalk with three leaves and the words Be The Change.  This precedes the formal verso and title pages.

Eighteen striking two-page pictures interpret this priceless journey traveled by Arun. The depiction of light and shadow is marvelous.  The placement of the text never detracts from the visuals incorporated flawlessly into them.  In one picture the text is placed within a tree trunk and branches.  On that same page cotton has been picked by a woman and child.  It looks so real you will reach out to touch the page.

On another page the representations of the eleven vows are placed in connected squares of varying sizes.  We see these shapes replicated on the next two pages when Grandfather Gandhi is speaking and again in the formation of the tree.  Everything and everyone is connected.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the first one.  It is a varied orange background of watercolor.  On the right are the words for the first two sentences.  On the left in front of a large pale yellow sun are Grandfather Gandhi and Arun.  The walking stick Gandhi carries is the same shade as their skin.  Gandhi's glasses are a deeper yellow.  Their clothing is different shades of orange folded fabric.  Shadows extend from the walking stick and their feet.  There is a great deal of love in this scene.

Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus with illustrations by Evan Turk is the perfect title for this new year.  How will each of us be the change?  How can this true story be used to help everyone seek change?  For myself I am going to try to do one thing actively each month differently (except for October when I do my Halloween book giveaway).  For the month of January my new thing is when I return bottles at the grocery store I am going to leave my bottle slip for the customer behind me in line.

To learn more about Arun Gandhi, Bethany Hegedus and Evan Turk and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Evan Turk also maintains a blog. Visit this link to view a sketch Evan Turk has on Instagram. To view some of the interior pages please visit the publisher's website.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other selections by bloggers participating in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


  1. I loved both the art and the message for this book as well as its predecessor. Such an important one! We can all make a difference!

    1. These books are so important Maria. They not only speak profound truths but these people are real! Yes, we can all make a difference.