As a part of our one hundred book project I have been reading books on the theme of conflict with Grade 5. We started with War and Peas (Michael Foreman) which is about conflict but equally about wealthy nations and the developing world and our responsibilities to each other. The illustrations by Michael Foreman in War and Peas are quite scrumptious. The land belonging to the Fat King is depicted using cakes, biscuits and huge milk shakes. The final lines are so important when King Lion from the poor nation suggests they should now live in peace. The fat king replies “Peace … never heard of it. What’s the recipe?”
Our next book was Tusk Tusk by David McKee. I love to read the Elmer books to my Kindergarten students so it is good to revisit this talented author/illustrator with senior students. The elephants are at war. The issue is colour. The peace loving elephants flee into the forest and are never seen again. The black and white elephants annihilate each other and no elephants are left on earth until many, many years later some grey elephants emerge from the forest. Once again in this book it is the ending that is so important. I am sad to tell you the elephants with the small ears are looking at the elephants with the large ears and it seems conflict might once again be on the horizon.
Herbert and Harry (Pamela Allen) go fishing and catch a ‘treasure’ chest. Harry falls overboard and Herbert claims the treasure but with this comes the terrible burden of fear. Someone might try to steal his ‘treasure’ and so Herbert cannot sleep and he takes the ‘treasure’ to the top of a mountain far away and he buries it deep into the hillside and he sets up an enormous fortification to keep the ‘treasure’ safe. The heart of this story once again comes as a conclusion. Harry swam back to shore and has lived a long, happy life with his extended family. Years later Herbert still cannot sleep, ever watchful in case someone comes to steal his ‘treasure’. So who has had treasures in their life – Herbert or Harry?
Next we read The Butter Battle book by Dr Seuss. This is a book you could share with senior High School students but it is also accessible to Upper Primary even though the references to the Cold War are too abstract for them. The issue under conflict here is perfect and really demonstrates how sometimes we disagree over such trivial things. Do you put butter on the top or the bottom of your bread? The two sides in this conflict embark on an arms race to wipe each other out. The weapons and uniforms grow bigger and more outlandish as we turn each page until both sides develop a bomb. Neither can drop this bomb and so we have a stalemate. We also own the video of this story which is filled with lively songs.
Other titles we will explore over the next few weeks on this theme include Fox by Margaret Wild, Grumpy little King by Michael Streich, Clancy the Courageous cow by Lachie Hume (Notes), The General by Janet Charters illustrated by Michael Foreman, The Conquerors by David McKee and The bear with the sword by Davide Cali (Notes).