By Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 48 pages. $18.99/hardcover; $5.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.
As a teacher of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi can take on superhero proportions in the imagination. It could be easy to revere his example while finding it impossible to follow. We have an excellent teaching tool in the stunning picture book Be the Change, which illustrates Gandhi’s teachings through the eyes and voice of his grandson Arun Gandhi. The story reveals the importance of commitment and everyday actions that build a foundation for living peace. Young Arun lived at Sevagram ashram with his grandfather and 350 others, and he tried to make sense of his grandfather’s teachings. “I wasn’t sure how not wasting food or other items made life nonviolent, but I did my best to follow the path put before me.” He gives us a story of a specific incident that helped him to grasp the teachings on nonviolence and personal responsibility.
The vibrant mixed-media artwork of Evan Turk combines fabric, watercolor, colored pencils, and gouache into collages, which use a color palette that reflects the mood of each scene. There are deep bright-pink sunrises, colored threads stitched into patterned backgrounds, thoughtful faces rendered in a range of warm-brown tones. Be the Change would be a welcome addition to a family, classroom, or public library collection. While primarily aimed at ages four through eight, this book offers a helpful opening for lessons for middle school Friends. The authors provide resources for further exploration at the book’s website grandfathergandhi.com.