CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 13. . . .December 2, 2016
What is Peace?
Toronto, ON: North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, 2016.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Linda Ludke.
“Is peace old?
Is peace new?
Is it near?
Is it far?
Do you need to find it?
What is peace?”
Governor General Literary Award-winning author and illustrator Wallace Edwards explores the meaning of peace by pairing thought-provoking, open-ended comments with his signature, surreal paintings. The artwork accompanying the questions “Can you study peace? Can you learn peace?” shows a monkey in a bookshelf-lined study, sitting in a straight-backed chair, reading about birds - but holding the book upside down. Two birds, one black and one white, regard him from their nearby perch. The scene coupled with the query “Is peace quiet? Is peace noisy?” shows a ponderous toad, head held in hand, sitting on a rock, while a raucous chorus of smaller amphibians play the banjo, drum and cowbells, and sing in open-mouthed enthusiasm.
Peace is a complex, multi-faceted concept, and the examples are by turns playful, as in the scene with the eponymous three little pigs tickling the big bad wolf with white feathers (“Is peace happy? Is peace joyful? … Does it show itself in laughter?”). There are also quieter, emotional scenes, such as an elephant paying his respects at an unmarked grave (“Is peace sad? Is peace lonely? … Can you find it in goodbye?”). As the elephant bows its head in reverence and grief, two black crows look on.
Wallace Edwards’ sophisticated watercolour and coloured pencil illustrations demand close inspection. In an afterword, Edwards explains his artistic process and reflects upon some of the ideas he was thinking about when he composed the paintings. He also acknowledges the non-partisan organization, PeaceQuest, for encouraging him to create this picture book.
Timely and contemplative, What is Peace? will undoubtedly spark discussion and reflection.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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