Why War Is Never a Good Idea

( 1 )


Though War is Old

It has not

Become wise.

Poet and activist Alice Walker personifies the power and wanton devastation of war in this evocative poem.

Stefano Vitale’s compelling paintings illustrate this unflinching look at war’s destructive nature and unforeseen consequences.

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Though War is Old

It has not

Become wise.

Poet and activist Alice Walker personifies the power and wanton devastation of war in this evocative poem.

Stefano Vitale’s compelling paintings illustrate this unflinching look at war’s destructive nature and unforeseen consequences.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
There are more picture books about war than one would imagine. Some about specific wars (usually in the distant past) portray it as noble, while others (especially those set in recent times) avoid the question of causes and focus rather on the physical destruction or the devastating effect on children. Many compare national conflicts to children’s squabbles and are expressly anti-war, but at the same time they often present a seductive picture of glittering weapons and bright anachronistic uniforms. This volume is different. It presents war as an unreasoning, relentless force that lacks wisdom and seeks out the riches of the world but is speechless before the priceless forms of life and natural beauty. In this work, nothing about war is attractive or justifiable. Both author and illustrator engage all the senses. For example, a tactile illustration shows tank tires scrunching the page in its path as they approach an oblivious frog. On another page, the ubiquitous, disembodied eyes of War see oil and other valuable natural resources but are blind to the value of donkeys, parrots and the raw materials of life such as mother’s milk. Like Popov’s Why?, this book shows the wanton effects of war on the natural world and the senselessness of the destruction. Yet while this book starts with images of War as impersonal and Other, and its victims as innocent, it ends with a question: “suppose You Become War?” Walker leaves readers contemplating their own complicity in war and considering the ultimate price to be paid, even by War’s perpetrators. This is a very powerful, poetic book that is sure to provoke much classroom discussion. Reviewer: Christina M. Desai
Kirkus Reviews
How do you answer the question implied in this title? Beautifully, powerfully and truthfully, as Walker and Vitale demonstrate in language and images accessible even to very young children. The lines, "War has bad manners / War eats everything / In its path / & what / It doesn't / Eat / It / Dribbles / On:" float over an image of a once-beautiful old city, now blasted and sere. War destroys unthinkingly-from bright green frogs to ancient sculpture, from pumas and parakeets to blessed and needful water. War is blind to nursing mothers and boys with donkeys. Walker's language is perfectly plainspoken without being coarse, laid over Vitale's jewel-like color and riot of images from the sublime (a village by a lake) to the scary (a poisonous green fog covering a bright forest). Disembodied eyes, bombs like darts, paint sculpted into terrifying monster shape, echo and reinforce the strength of the language. Children deserve to see this, and adults need to be ready to discuss it with them. (Picture book. 5-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060753856
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/18/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,054,794
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Walker

Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and an American Book Award for her novel The Color Purple. She has written numerous poems, essays, and short stories, including her most recent book, The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart. Originally published in 1974, Langston Hughes: American Poet was Alice Walker's first book for children. This picture book biography is now back in print with a new author's note and beautiful new illustrations. Ms. Walker lives in Northern California.

Stefano Vitale's award-winning artwork appears in galleries and exhibitions as well as in such picture books as When the Wind Stops, by Charlotte Zolotow (an ALA Notable Book). Mr. Vitale is a graduate of the University of Southern California and of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He lives with his family in Venice, Italy.


Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her novel The Color Purple, which was preceded by The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Meridian. Her other bestselling novels include By the Light of My Father's Smile, Possessing the Secret of Joy and The Temple of My Familiar. She is also the author of two collections of short stories, three collections of essays, five volumes of poetry and several children's books. Her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages. Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Walker now lives in Northern California.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Alice Malsenior Walker (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Mendocino, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 9, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Eatonton, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1965; attended Spelman College, 1961-63

Interviews & Essays

When I wrote Why War Is Never a Good Idea I was thinking about children who play "war" long before they have any understanding of its meaning. Their parents buy toys for them that are miniature rifles, tanks, and bombs. Small babies are dressed in military print. They lie in their cribs grinning up at the adults of the world, without a clue that they are being set up to fight other young people, in not so many years, who would more sensibly be their playmates. I wanted to write a book for small children that would begin to counter the entrenched belief that it is all right for them to think positively about war. It isn't all right, and the adults of the world must say so.

We've all heard of "the good war" presumably a war that is righteous and just. However, seen from the perspective of my children's book, there is no such thing as a "good" war because war of any kind is immoral in its behavior. War lands heavily on the good and the not good with equal impact. It kills humans and other animals and destroys crops. It ignites and decimates forests and it pollutes rivers. It obliterates beauty, whether in landscape, species, or field. It leaves poison in its wake. Grief. Suffering. When war enters the scene, no clean water anywhere is safe. No fresh air can survive. War attacks not just people, "the other," or "enemy," it attacks Life itself: everything that humans and other species hold sacred and dear. A war on a people anywhere is a war on the Life of the planet everywhere. It doesn't matter what the politics are, because though politics might divide us, the air and the water do not. We are all equally connected to the life support system of planet Earth, and war is notorious for destroying this fragile system.

Our only hope of maintaining a livable planet lies in teaching our children to honor non-violence, especially when it comes to caring for Nature, which keeps us going with such grace and faithfulness. Why War Is Never a Good Idea doesn't take sides because we are ultimately on the same side: the side of keeping our home, Earth, safe from attack. We cannot live healthy lives without a healthy Earth ever supporting and inspiring us, in all her unspoiled radiant generosity.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2008

    Why should children read this book

    I really enjoyed the book,as well, authors careful use of words to explain why war is never good idea,illustrations in the book really brings the concept of the war alive,how its not just effect people but also the nature.I my opinion that book could be a lesson not just for children but for adults too.I would deffenetly use the book in my classroom.

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