Why War Is Never a Good Idea

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
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Severe look at war's impact better for older kids.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Parents should be ready to discuss this book with their kids and share their own ideas about the best way to make peace in the world.

Positive Messages

This book provides a rather intense look at the dangers of war, and its effect on people, animals, and Earth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters in the book lead peaceful lives until war arrives. Careful readers will think about what it means to be those characters -- or to be part of the war that impacts them.


Focus is on more subtle destructive aspects of war, especially those that impact unsuspecting, innocent creatures.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this evocative poem about the hidden destruction of war presents a powerful message that is too scary for younger and sensitive readers. Younger kids will be scared more by the illustrations than by the words, and even 8- and 9-year-olds should read this book with an adult to help them understand it.

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What's the story?

From the frogs in the pond to the boy on the straw pile and the animals in the rainforest, unsuspecting, innocent creatures of the earth feel the sometimes subtle yet long-lasting effects of war. The jungle scene on the cover is inviting, and bright colors and happy, peaceful scenes fill the next few pages -- but that happiness slowly dissolves as the hidden destruction caused by war seeps relentlessly into the water, plants, forests, and fields, eating and dribbling on "everything in its path." And, finally, the reader is warned to be wary of a time when he too becomes war, and even worse, has to drink the contaminated water that has been left behind.

Is it any good?

Stefano Vitale's illustrations for this book have been called "unflinching," and Alice Walker's poem is too. Both are far from timid, unsettling at times, and completely appropriate to the message that WAR IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA. However, though it's presented in a picture book format, this is a better fit for older kids.

War is not a game, and it impacts all even though it may be happening halfway around the world. Mahatma Gandhi once wrote "if we are to reach real peace in this world...we shall have to begin with the children." However, this book may be a rough place for small kids to start. Mature readers and adults will be moved by both its beauty, ugliness, and truth -- and will find plenty to discuss.

Stefano Vitale's illustrations have been called "unflinching," and it's true, as the illustrations reflect the author's intense poetry about war's dangers: bright colors and happy, peaceful scenes fill the first few pages -- but that happiness slowly dissolves as the hidden destruction caused by war seeps in.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the painful, scary effects of war in each of the situations presented in the book. Do you agree that war is never a good idea?

  • How can we help build a world where wars do not happen? Before starting this book, parents may want to have a few ideas about everyday things their family can do to build peace.

Book details

For kids who love poetry

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