cover image Why War Is Never a Good Idea

Why War Is Never a Good Idea

Alice Walker, , illus. by Stefano Vitale. . HarperCollins, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-075385-6

In a startlingly graphic exploration of the horrors of war, Vitale (When the Wind Stops ) first paints folk-like landscapes in his signature style, showing graceful, brown-skinned mothers cuddling their children, and birds soaring through the jungle. Then he crushes them, covers them with gray paint, or smears horrid, waxy substances over them, and collages the results—which, like the fruits of war, are the stuff of nightmares. Walker's (There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose, Smelling Me ) text is equally frightening. Of a “blissful” mother and child, she writes, “They do not smell War... Marching slowly/ toward them.” She shifts into second person: “War tastes terrible/ & smells/ Bad... You could die/ While/ Choking/ &/ Holding/ Your/ Nose.” Accompanying the latter passage, Vitale shows a creature made of some unspeakable, dripping, brown and green muck, in whose depths plastic soldiers are buried and whose face has the shape of a skull. The final spread offers a view from inside a deep well. Its walls are encrusted with some brackish substance, and 11 dark faces—mothers, children, a man in a suit—peer down into it. “Now, suppose,” Walker concludes, “You/ Become War/ It happens/ To some of/ The nicest/ People/ On earth:/ & one day/ You have/ To drink/ The/ Water/ In this place.” Leaving kids feeling more aware than ever of their helplessness in the face of real and terrifying issues beyond their control, this book may be even more disturbing than a fact-based presentation. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)