War: A Children’s Book is an educational peacemaking tool, a labor of love by a broad global volunteer community of educators and parents and writers and artists and peacemakers.
It all started with a child’s question. While the author, Zachary Gallant was on a Fulbright scholarship researching post-conflict redevelopment in the former Yugoslavia, his 6-year-old cousin asked his grandfather “why is there war?” Now, this is a surprising question from a little kid, and, thinking quickly of a family member who was working in the field, his grandpa responded “Well, I don’t know, why don’t you ask your cousin Zach next time you see him?” When that question was passed on to Zach, he was stumped. We can talk about nationalism and jingoism and resource scarcity and the military industrial complex and negligent or malignant media, but what does all that mean to a child? The question stuck in his head as he worked and studied and lived in post-conflict and war zones over the following five years. It was only upon having children of his own, though, that the words finally came together. Shortly before the birth of his first child, inspiration struck and Zach completed his answer in a one-night writing session, a 300-line poem explaining the causes and solutions to conflict.
One night was all it took to write, but only after five years of contemplation, and of course it wasn’t done just because it was written. In the year after Zach finished writing, the text was edited dozens of times by an international community from every related field, from soldiers to teachers. Veterans edited alongside those who grew up as children in warzones. Artists tried their own vision on the text, and the wonderful Jenna Frome put in countless hours and created, among other things, the beautiful picture that graces this website. With a brain trust including at least four PhDs and another few Bachelors and Masters degrees in literature and children’s literature, our editors included psychologists working in Latin American orphanages and elementary school teachers from US inner cities, lawyers and principals and university lecturers of conflict management and feminist theory, and most importantly: a lot of committed parents.
The project went public at the start of 2015 and grewing into a broad community effort, digitally led by our Social Media Coordinator, Tasia Karoutsos, covering our Facebook fan page and out twitter account (@WarBook4Kids).
Since being picked up for publication in September 2015, the project has grown international and multilingual.
Our Kiswahili co-author, Jason Maageria, grew up in Kenya during the deadly inter-ethnic conflicts of the ’90s and 2000s. He gained a passion for volunteering, teaching, and just helping. An educator in Mombasa, Jason was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach Kiswahili at Yale University in 2015, and continued on to teach Kiswahili at Bowling Green University in Ohio. Jason’s powerful translation was completed rapidly and edited by a wide network of Kiswahili linguists, psychologists, artists and educators from Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, as well as in Germany and the United States, and stands ready to be illustrated and published to reach audiences in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.
Our German co-author, Manuela Schuster, was born in Romania under the regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, and emigrated with her family to Germany early in her childhood as conflict was breaking out. She is currently, among other things, a German teacher, helping to integrate newcomers into German society, many of them war refugees. Her envisioning of the text brings in a refugee frame story, explaining war through the lens of “who is this new child in my class/neighborhood?” Her interpretation is currently being proofread by child psychologists, trauma psychologists, educators and parents throughout Germany. It will be featured at the German and broader European 2018 EMDR trauma therapy conferences in Bonn, Germany & Strasbourg, France.
Our Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin co-authors, Nadina and Jasna Fejes, are a daughter mother-team from Vojvodina, in northern Serbia. Jasna was a lawyer raising three daughters during the wars of the 1990s as Yugoslavia fell apart, and Nadina spent her first decade of life in an on-again-off-again warzone. Nadina holds an M.Sc. in Evidence-based Social Interventions from Oxford University, and has acted as War: A Children’s Book‘s project manager from the very beginning.
Our Arabic co-author, Riad al-Hamad, was a lawyer in Aleppo, Syria, before the war. He is the committed father of three children, his first born in Syria right at the beginning, his second born in a refugee camp in Turkey, and his third born in Riad’s current home in Germany. His interpretation is being proofread by a wide range of refugee parents and children, teachers and therapists.
We’re an all-volunteer effort and would be thrilled to have you join our team, with artistic interpretations (such as Jenna Frome‘s, whose vision graces the cover of this website), translations, animations, distribution, and anything else you could bring to the project! Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to help bring this project to the next level!