The First Day of Peace

By Todd Shuster, illustrated by Tatiana Gardel. Candlewick Press, 2023. 32 pages. $18.99/hardcover or eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.

This author was featured in the May 2024 episode of the Quakers Today podcast.

First-day school teachers and young Friends will enjoy this beautiful, oversized storybook. The story is about two communities: the mountain people and the valley people. The mountain people take water from the river for their daily needs and for their crops of rice and grapes. The valley people depend upon water from a lake. Both communities lived comfortably yet had minimal interaction with each other until a hot, dry summer caused a water shortage. This cautionary tale can encourage conversation about climate change, scarcity, and conflict in a straightforward way.

Some of the valley people journeyed up the mountain seeking water, but the mountain people chased them away. The mountain people were chased away when they searched for water in the valley. Neither group welcomed strangers. Springtime brought rain, and there was plenty for everyone.

For several years, the two groups remained separate. In spite of minimal interactions, the animosity between the groups increased. Eventually a storm flooded the valley and caused suffering for the valley people. A “wise and brave” mountain girl became aware of hardships among the valley people and called on her community to help them. The mountain people brought food to share with their neighbors. The valley people reciprocated with gifts from their culture. They told stories and got to know each other. The friendship spread into a day of peace.

The author, Todd Shuster, is a cofounder of the Peace Studio, a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting artists and journalists as a way “to inspire hope and catalyze transformative social change.” Another cofounder, Maya Soetoro-Ng, wrote the afterword, which mentions “the Beloved Community that Dr. Kind envisioned” and ends with the belief that “young people can be taught and encouraged to imagine a better world and begin to make it real.” All proceeds received by the authors are donated to the Peace Studio.

The First Day of Peace demonstrates the power of kindness and sharing. The illustrations demonstrate diversity. A nonreader will be able to follow the story from Tatiana Gardel’s colorful images. This book reminds us to pay attention to the plight of others and that a small act of kindness can be a large step toward peaceful coexistence.

Correction: A previous version of this review misspelled the author’s last name; it’s Todd Shuster, not Schuster.

Katie Green is a member of Clearwater Meeting in Dunedin, Fla. Katie is a storyteller, educator, and workshop leader. She is a retired speech and language pathologist. Katie believes that stories can and do change the world.

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