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Story of Buddha for Children

  • August 28, 2009 10:39 am
Buddha book

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Prince Siddhartha: The Story of Buddha is a 143-page chapter book retelling the life story of Buddha in language understandable to elementary-age kids. The book features over 50 vivid, full-color illustrations by Janet Brooke. The author, Jonathan Landaw, has also written Buddhism for Dummies and other Buddhist books.

Although this is about a spiritual figure, the book is suitable for children of any religion, because it is told as the mythical story of an ancient wise man. Buddha can be a wonderful role model of peace and gentleness for boys as well as for girls.

Shortly after Prince Siddhartha’s birth, a holy man prophesied that Siddhartha would either become the greatest king in history, or a great teacher of the path of peace and love.

Prince Siddhartha’s father wanted his son to become a king, and so he did everything in his power to prevent Siddhartha from ever coming into contact with suffering. After his marriage, Siddhartha was provided with three pleasure palaces, and the best food, music, and gardens.

Yet the prince yearned to know about life outside the palace grounds. He took three trips outside and encountered an ill man, an old man, and a dead man. These sights caused him to leave the palace permanently in a quest to find a way to end all suffering.

Siddhartha experimented with depriving his body of food and sleep, and sitting very still for hours on end. After some years, however, he decided that this kind of harsh treatment was no better than the constant pleasure he experienced in his palaces. He began to search for a middle path, between pleasure and deprivation.

Sitting under a tree, he awakened to the realization that suffering is caused by running after pleasure and away from pain. He realized that suffering could be ended by overcoming selfishness and hatred. Siddhartha had become a “buddha” — a fully awakened being.

After Buddha’s awakening, the book continues with the story of his teachings, including several parables told by Buddha that will be appealing to children.

I am not a Buddhist (although I am Hindu, a religion which has been influenced by Buddhism), and I have sometimes found other Buddhist writings to be difficult to understand. This book brings the story of Buddha to life in a way that is easy for children and adults to grasp. Both of my sons have thoroughly enjoyed this story. You can buy this book from my Boys list.

Native Women of Courage, by Kelly Fournel

  • August 23, 2009 4:22 pm
Native Women of Courage

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This 82-page book contains short biographies of 10 native women from the United States and Canada. Some of the women are fairly well-known, such as Wilma Mankiller (first woman chief of the Cherokees), Winona LaDuke (environmentalist and vice presidential candidate), and Maria Tallchief (ballerina for the New York City ballet). Others I had never heard of, such as Suzanne Rochon-Burnett, a Canadian radio broadcaster, and Lorna Williams, an educator who developed a native-centric curriculum.

I enjoyed reading the stories of all of these women. The author describes the challenges these women faced as well as their triumphs. I learned that Pauline Johnson-Tekahionwake, a poet and performer, had written down legends told to her by Chief Capilano of Vancouver, British Columbia. These are collected in a book called Legends of Vancouver, first published in 1910. I was able to request this book from my library to read to my kids. I also learned about Susan Aglukark, an Inuit singer who has won 3 Juno awards (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy award). I’m glad to know about a new singer I might like to listen to. 

This book is part of the Native Trailblazers series from Book Publishing Company in Summertown, Tennessee. You can buy this from my Girls list.

The Only One Club, by Jane Naliboff

  • August 15, 2009 7:05 am
The Only One Club

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Picture book, ages 5-8. It’s Christmas time, and Jennifer’s teacher asks the class to make decorations. Jennifer proudly announces that she will make Hanukkah decorations, because she is the only Jewish girl in the class. That night, she goes home and makes herself a glittery badge that says “The Only One Club.”

The next day at school, her classmates want to join her club, and they try to convince her that they, too, are the only one of something. Jennifer doesn’t want anyone else to join. But when she hears the other kids talking about setting up their own club, she realizes her mistake. She goes home and makes glittery badges for everyone.

This book takes a unique approach to differences. Instead of portraying a character who feels bad about being unusual, it starts with a character who is too full of pride about her exceptionality. Although Jennifer has a lesson to learn, still her pride inspires others to notice and enjoy their own differences.

You can buy this book from my Girls list.

Benjamin and the Word, by Daniel A. Olivas

  • August 14, 2009 3:40 pm

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This picture book for elementary-age children is about a boy whose friend calls him a hurtful name. We never learn exactly what the word is, but we do know that Benjamin is very upset. Benjamin is half Hispanic and half Jewish. He and his father talk about the incident, and Benjamin decides to tell his friend how he feels. In the end, the friendship is restored. 

I read this to my seven-year-old son, who is also mixed-race, and he seemed very absorbed by the story. I like the fact that Benjamin’s father is empathetic and nurturing, and I like the fact that the incident is resolved without a lot of drama. The issue of name-calling is handled in a realistic way in this book.

The text is printed in English and Spanish. This book is published by Arte Publico Press, which specializes in books by U.S. Hispanic authors. You can buy this from my Boys book list.