TRADE Books for Reducing Violence

Ronald A. Banaszak and Mary K. Banaszak

The use of trade books to enrich instruction is well-established. In reading fiction, the ability to experience events along with the characters may encourage empathy and have a powerful impact on the reader. Nonfiction works can help students explore topics not covered in depth by textbooks.
Finding the right trade book is not always easy. The books in this annotated bibliography all deal with violence and its consequences. They have been chosen for their power in dealing with tough subjects forthrightly and uncompromisingly.

The books include both fiction and non-fiction. The grade levels indicated for each book are Intermediate (grades 3-5), Middle (grades 6-8), and Advanced (grades 9-12 and adult). These grade levels are intended to provide guidance only, and not to limit how these books can be used.

A note of caution: as with any supplementary material, the books you use or recommend to students should be carefully reviewed. This is especially true of these books, which deal with emotion-laden topics and often have the power to touch readers deeply. That is, of course, why they are so useful.

Akins, S. Beth. Voices from the Streets: Young Former Gang Members Tell Their Stories. Boston: Little, Brown. 1996.
These are the voices of former gang members telling how they were able to leave their gangs, and who and what helped them to achieve new lives. "Most important, I wanted my book to carry a positive message, to bring hope," explains the author/photographer. "I wanted my book not to glamorize gang members but to portray them with respect." Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.

Banfield, Susan. Ethnic Conflicts in Schools. Hillside, NJ: Enslow. 1995.
The controversial issue of ethnic conflict is examined through historic and current examples. Successful conflict resolution programs are featured as models for solving cultural diversity issues in schools and communities. Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.
Carnes, Jim. Us and Them: A History of Intolerance in America. New York: Walker. 1996.
Intolerance is not new in American history. From Boston in 1660 to Brooklyn in 1991, the dark side of U.S. history is told with photographs and text. Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.
Carter, Jimmy. Talking Peace: A Vision for the Next Generation. New York: Dutton Children's Books. 1995.
This updated and revised edition was written by the former U.S. President. The book discusses contributions that individuals, especially young adults, can make to peace. Intermediate, Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.

Clise, Michele Durkson. Stop The Violence Please. Seattle: Allied Arts Foundation in association with University of Washington Press. 1994.
While playing with a gun, a teenager accidentally kills two children. This book includes facts about gun violence, steps that parents and children can take to stop the violence; and a list of related books, films, and organizations. Middle, Intermediate. Nonfiction.
Cohn, Janice. The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate. New York: Whitman. 1995.
This powerful narrative tells about how two children, their families, and a community resolve to stand together against bigotry and hatred. The story is based on true events. Intermediate, Middle. Fiction.
Cooper, Floyd. Mandela: From the Life of the South African Statesman. Philomel. 1996.
From his youth attending English schools to the story of his fight to end apartheid, the life of Nelson Mandela is told compellingly in words and drawings. Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.

Edgerton, Clyde. Walking Across Egypt. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Bks. 1987.
Mattie Rigsbee, an aging 78-year-old woman, entertains herself playing hymns on her piano and supporting her Baptist church. She wishes her children would marry so she could have the grandchildren she desires. Wesley enters her life. He is a child reared in an orphanage and a graduate from reform school. Mattie needs his challenge, dependence and love, while he needs a grandmother's love and stability. Advanced. Fiction.
Hinojosa, Maria. Crews: Gang Members Talk to Maria Hinojosa. San Diego: Harcourt Brace. 1995.
NPR reporter Maria Hinojosa's interviews with gangs (crews) are reported with compassion and candor in a question-and-answer format. The dominant themes are power, violence, caring, and surviving in urban communities. Advanced. Nonfiction.
Hubbard, Kate and Berlin, Evelyn. Help Yourself to Safety. Edmonds, WA: The Chas. Franklin Press. 1985.
This book is a guide to avoiding dangerous situations with strangers and friends. It includes topics such as "getting to school safely" and "your body belongs to you." Intermediate. Nonfiction.
Hyde, Margaret & Forsyth, Elizabeth. The Violent Mind. New York: Watts. 1991.
This book looks at the roots of violence, explores the links between violence and alcohol and drug abuse, and discusses ways to reduce violent behavior. Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.
Kyte, Kathy S. Play it Safe: the Kid's Guide to Personal Safety and Crime Prevention. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1983.
This book advises on how to prevent and reduce the risk of burglary, assault and rape. Home security and buddy systems are discussed. Ways to get around cities safely on foot, on public transportation, and in cars are also covered. Intermediate, Middle. Nonfiction.
Lamb, Nancy, and Children of Oklahoma City. One April Morning: Children Remember the Oklahoma Bombing. New York: Lothrop. 1996.
Healing the emotional trauma of the Oklahoma City bombing is the focus of this book, which uses first person accounts and illustrations to address the anger, pain, and fear that result from any tragedy. Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.

Levine, Ellen. A Fence Away from Freedom: Japanese Americans and World War II. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1995.
Through the voices of young children, the story of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II unfolds. Events before Pearl Harbor, and during and after the internment, are treated. Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.
Levitin, Sonia. Adam's War. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. 1994.
When Adam and his friends start a war with a rival club over a clubhouse, the conflict ends in violence with an innocent victim. Adam realizes that leadership involves pain as well as pride, and that revenge exacts a terrible price. Intermediate. Fiction.
Marsano, William. The Street Smart Book: How Kids Can Have Fun and Stay Safe! New York: Julian Messner. 1985.
This book has short stories of kids getting out of tight spots using street smarts. An explanation of survival tactics, such as how to avoid kidnapping and other dangerous situations, is included. Middle. Nonfiction.
Mead, Alice. Junebug. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 1995.
Because ten is the age when boys in the Auburn Street projects are forced to join gangs, Junebug would rather remain nine. Intermediate, Middle. Fiction.
Myers, Walter Dean. Scorpions. San Francisco: HarperCollins. 1988.
When his jailed older brother wants Jamal to take over leadership of the Scorpions, the situation leads to ownership of a gun and irreversibly unhappy results. Middle. Fiction.
Rinaldi, Ann. Keep Smiling Through. San Diego: Harcourt Brace. 1996.
A ten-year-old child tells the truth about an act of violence against her German-American grandfather while adults remain silent. Set in the 1940s, this novel treats the issue of personal responsibility. Middle. Fiction.
Ross, Jim, and Paul Myers, eds.. Dear Oklahoma City, Get Well Soon: America's Children Reach Out to the People of Oklahoma. New York: Walker. 1996.
This view of the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing is comprised of both children's letters and drawings sent to survivors and rescuers, and the recollections of these people themselves. Middle, Advanced. Nonfiction.

Dr. Seuss. The Butter Battle Book. New York: Random House. 1984.
An allegorical fantasy in which a simple argument between Yooks and Zooks over whether the top or the bottom side of bread should be buttered escalates into a full scale war. Intermediate. Fiction.
Tryon, Thomas. Night of the Moonbow. New York: Knopf. 1988.
An orphan, Leo Joaquim, is given the miracle of a summer at Camp Friend Indeed. As a clumsy misfit, he becomes the object of the other campers' scorn, and an endurance test results between him and spoiled golden-boy counselor Reece Hartzig. Leo holds a tragic secret that threatens to erupt in uncontrollable violence as the campers' pranks become more vicious and sadistic. Advanced. Fiction.

Ronald A. Banaszak is director of Youth Education Programs for the Special Committee on Youth Education for Citizenship of the American Bar Association. Mary K. Banaszak is a special education teacher at Queen of Angels Elementary School in Chicago.