Kids listen to a sober tale

MILL CREEK — Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker came to a Snohomish County school Monday to read from her latest children’s book “Why War Is Never a Good Idea.”

Walker spoke to a packed assembly of more than 500 students at Cedar Wood Elementary School, where teachers dressed in purple and students’ artwork depicting scenes from Walker’s poems hung on the walls.

The novelist best known for writing “The Color Purple,” talked about growing up with her sharecropper parents in Georgia and her black Labrador, Marley, and she read from her new book that talks about the destructiveness of war. On Monday night, she was to speak in Seattle.

Before reading at Cedar Wood Elementary, Walker asked children to raise their hands if they were aware of the war being fought in Iraq.

Nearly every student’s hand was raised.

“In every country where there is war, there are children, just like you,” Walker said. “This is something we need to think about, even when we are as young as you are.”

The book’s illustrations spanned the globe, showing mostly rural scenes from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

One illustration showed frogs on a lily pad, about to be flattened by a camouflaged truck tire.

“Though war knows every language, it never knows what to say to frogs,” she said, reading from her book. “They do not see war.”

David Jones, the principal of Cedar Wood Elementary, said learning about an author’s motivation is an important requirement of state standards for reading.

Hearing the author speak about what influenced her writing and what she hopes to accomplish with it is powerful, he said.

“It helps kids really analyze and think clearly about what they have read,” Jones said.

Dianne Lundberg, teacher-librarian at the school, helped coordinate the talk with the University Book Store in Mill Creek as it promotes Walker’s new book.

“It is a profound book,” Lundberg said.

Before the assembly, Lundberg gave children a slide show presentation on Walker’s life, telling them about an injury as a child that left Walker blind in one eye.

After the assembly, a handful of students lined up next to Walker and asked questions about writing and her dog.

Arie Martinet, a fourth-grade student who visited the library after the assembly, said she enjoyed the talk.

“It was really inspiring,” Martinet said. “War is never a good idea. We’re all human and we can get along nicely so why should there be war?”

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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