Title: Be the Change, A Grandfather Gandhi Story
Authors: Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
Illustrator: Evan Turk
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 2016
Themes: being the change, Gandhi, passive violence, autobiographical, wastefulness
The World knows him as Mahatma Gandhi, Great Soul. To me, he is Grandfather.
The purpose of ashram life was to live simply and
Nonviolently. Each day was filled, from sunrise to
sunset, with service. The ashram worked as one:
washing clothes, planting vegetables,
picking fruit, spinning yarn-
anything that needed doing
was done for the good of
all. Grandfather had
dubbed our work, “Experiments in Truth.”
The daily life of this Indian village, ashram, sets the scene for the story to unfold. In this village community where Grandfather Gandhi and his family live everyone works together for the good of the community. The villagers take eleven vows especially the vow of simplicity like many monks and nuns, and they commit to live without violence.
Gandhi’s grandson Arun loves this village life but one of the rules he has a real hard time obeying: not to waste. He tries to listen and embody the teachings of nonviolence of his grandfather but some make little sense to him. Through the rebellious act of throwing away the nub of a pencil, Aran takes months to learn why even this act of wastefulness is at its heart one of violence.
Why I like this book:
When I read the blurb about this I was a little puzzled. while I am mindful about not wasting and recycling etc, I too had the same question as young Aran, how can a pencil stub really be linked to violence? I found myself walking a path of enlightenment with him as his grandfather teaches him by drawing the truth from him of the need to truly steward our earth’s resources to avoid conflict of what we have or have not.
The concept of passive violence is rarely addressed in home or at school and yet in a world where we rape and destroy our natural resources without thought, this is a message for our day. Urgent and universal. Obviously the bigger call is not just to waste but to be the agents of change in our communities and this picture book calls adults and children to that commitment through its story. This is beautiful book that pack a powerful philosophical message in a way that is relatable and appealing to all.
The artwork is quite stunning, robust and heady with color, the sounds, smells and patterns of India permeating the pages. The contrast of colors with black and white emphasize the dichotomy of peace and violence in the daily life of these characters. The mixed media is used with effect to highlight for example the simple tunic Gandhi wears and the actions and features offer the reader a powerful array of emotions that young Arun runs through in the process of his revelations.
This is a unique contribution to the collections of stories about this mythical figure of our times.
The book includes a note from the authors detailing Arun Gandhi’s relationship with his grandfather Mohandas K. Gandhi, a closer look at passive violence and a pledge for readers to “Be the Change”.
After discussion, in groups children could come up with their own definition of passive violence and maybe a list of ways in which wastefulness could be reduced at home and/or in school.
This is a companion to the award-winning picture book, Grandfather Gandhi.
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