World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements

John Hunter. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-547-90559-4
The World Peace Game devised by fourth-grade teacher Hunter has spread from a classroom in 1978 to a documentary, a TEDTalk, the Pentagon, and now finally a book, in which he describes the ways his students have solved political and ecological crises that still loom large in the world of adults. The World Peace Game presents a microcosm of the larger world: four nations, each with its own wealth, ethnic, and natural resource profile; a “religious island tribe” and a “nomadic desert clan”; a United Nations and World Bank; and a “weather god or goddess” who oversees matters of chance. To these, Hunter adds a web of interconnected crises, all of which must be solved—and all nations increased in net worth—to declare the game won. Those hoping to observe an entire game play-by-play will be disappointed; instead, Hunter provides anecdotes from a variety of sessions to illustrate his larger points, most importantly the “empty space” he wants to create for student reflections. Though Hunter has a tendency to repeat himself, some stories are moving: a boy whose slow speech and shyness finally blooms into epiphany; five students sacrifice themselves to take down a tyrant. Ultimately, Hunter’s optimism is infectious. Agent: Cynthia Cannell, Cynthia Cannell Literary. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/07/2013
Release date: 04/02/2013
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