War & Peace for Children
The Special Collections book we’re highlighting today has a very specific mission: to teach children (and perhaps, the adults reading to or with them) about the post-nuclear world, and about the need for peace. On the Wings of Peace: In Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a 1995 collection of prose, poetry, and accompanying illustrations that promotes a message of world peace by incorporating voices from communities that have been affected by the atrocities of war.
The introduction by compiler and editor Sheila Hamanaka lays out the historical events of August 6, 1945, aligning the victims to the reader: “In this city of 350,000 were people like you and me, and they were already suffering from the effects of war — the death of loved ones, starvation, separation” (11). Her words appear across from this harrowing illustration:
Little Boy and Fat Man
Throughout the large hardback volume, essays, personal accounts, and poetry are accompanied by both illustrations that evoke difficult emotions and photographs that portray the reality of the circumstances. Across from “Thoughts from a Nuclear Physicist,” a short essay by Michio Kaku, is Little Boy and Fat Man, a photograph by Robert Del Tredici. A young man leans casually against what must be a mock-up of the bomb, appropriately reflecting Dr. Kaku’s wise observation:
“Regrettably, our scientific skills have far outstripped the wisdom and compassion necessary to control this deadly, cosmic power. We are like spoiled infants playing with matches while floating on a swimming pool of gasoline” (25).
Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection & Visual Literacy
The volume is a compelling addition to the growing Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, a broad collection of works mostly written and designed with children in mind. What is most fascinating about the collection is the way that Dr. Gontarski conceives of it; in her years of studying visual literacy, Dr. Gontarski has made connections between the books within her collection via the myriad ways meanings are visually communicated to children in these works. This book, which handles heavy subject matter, incorporates a mix of illustrations by different artists.
One of the stand-out poems includes illustrations by the poet.
“Sky,” by Junko Morimoto, tells the story of the atomic bombs from the perspective of a child in a village very near the drop-site. The illustrations are small and appear alongside the stanzas, as though they are part of the poetry.
This month’s Year of Poetry theme is community, and the book On the Wings of Peace considers the mission of achieving world peace through the eyes of people from different communities with different relationships to war and peace. In the case of “Sky” it is of a person who has experienced atomic fallout.
In the case of “Rabbit Foot: A Story of the Peacemaker,” the poem is from the perspective of the Iroquois people. It recounts one of the legends that accompanies the foundation of the Great League of Peace, which joined five nations at war into a larger league comprised of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca people (eventually, in 1722, the Tuscarora people joined as well). In the story, the Peacemaker warns of the dangers of war, illustrating his point with a story of a frog and a snake who eventually consume one another:
The snake swallowed more of the frog
the frog swallowed more of the snake
and the circle got smaller and smaller
until both of them swallowed one last time
and just like that, they both were gone.
They had eaten each other,
the Peacemaker said.
And in much the same way,
unless you give up war
and learn to live together in peace,
that also will happen to you.
— “Rabbit Foot: A Story of the Peacemaker” by Joseph Bruchac
If you’re interested in seeing how more artists respond to questions of war and peace, visit FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts to see the new exhibit, Waging Peace! There are beautiful pieces by a number of different artists, and local schools were involved in the design and installation of the exhibit.
The exhibit Waging Peace! will be up until July 6th, 2018. Don’t miss it!