Friday, December 10, 2010

1. A General and His Wish for Peace

The General: Anniversary Edition 50 Years, by Janet Charters, illustrated by Michael Foreman, Templar Books, $16.99, ages 4-8, 48 pages. On his quest for glory, a general is sidetracked by the beauty of nature, and comes to realize he'd rather bring peace to the world than tower above it. In this splendid reissue, General Jodhpur dreams of two things: to be the most famous general in the world and have his army admired by generals from other countries. Everyday from sun up to sun down, he orders his troops to polish everything he can think of, from their drills to their boots and weapons. Then one Sunday while riding in the country, an accident changes everything he thought he wanted. A fox crossing his path spooks his horse and the general is thrown to the ground. Landing on a soft patch of grass, he is unharmed but discovers he's lost all desire to get up. The grass is lovely and he lays on his back, nibbling on a blade as the sun's heat blankets his body. Finally, after a long time, the general decides he'd better head back to camp and begins to follow the familiar path home. Without his horse, it is slower going and he notices creatures he never appreciated before.

Distracted by the splendor around him, he plunks down in a big patch of flowers and waits for a bee to land on his nose. When he finally gets up to leave, he's saddened to find he's flattened some of the flowers, but refreshed in a way he never felt before. That night he begins to dream of all of the wonderful things he saw and suddenly the dream turns horribly dark. A mass of troops marches in and tramples the wild world. When he wakes the next morning, the general realizes his army must have squashed a great deal of life too and he knows what he must do. With a smile, he orders his soldiers to stop preparing for battle and go into the country and beautify the land. First published in 1961, this marvelous story fills you with hope, and reminds you how lovely everything and everyone can be around you. 

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