Posts tagged: peace

Nasreen’s Secret School (Jeanette Winter) – Review

By , October 28, 2009 9:48 pm

If you like multicultural children’s books, then I hope you are familiar with the books published by the Global Fund for Children.  The Global Fund for Children recently discovered my review of their wonderful Global Babies board book and contacted me regarding a review of a brand new book, Nasreen’s Secret School.

I am very picky when it comes to requests to review books, most queries end up in my email trash.   But I just knew that this book would be of great interest to us, and to many of you who read Unplug Your Kids, so I accepted this particular request.  Soon I was sent a free review copy of Nasreen’s Secret School.

Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter is subtitled “A True Story from Afghanistan.”  It is published by Simon & Schuster for the Global Fund for Children.  The author based this book on a story told to her by an organization supported by The Global Fund for Children that aided secret schools for girls during the reign of the Taliban (1996-2001).

This is the powerful tale of young Nasreen, a little Afghan girl who has not spoken since her parents’ disappearance.  The narrator, Nasreen’s grandmother, is determined to get her out of the house and into school, but girls are not allowed to attend school in Afghanistan:

“The Taliban soldiers don’t want girls to learn about the world, the way Nasreen’s mama and I learned when we were girls.”

There were “whispers” about a secret school for girls behind a green gate.  Nasreen and her veiled grandmother hurry down alleyways to towards the green gate, hoping not to be seen by soldiers (women were not allowed to leave the home without a male relative):  “Please Allah, open her eyes to the world” prays her grandmother.

My 7 and 9 year-old loved this book and I still often come across them reading it and rereading it in quiet corners of the house.  My daughter (age 9) said she liked that it was a true story and how it showed that not all children have the same life she does.

Although the book is written in a simple picture book format, it is recommended for ages 6 to 9.  On every page you will find a vibrant acrylic illustration (also by Jeanette Winter) and just a few short sentences.

Despite its colorful picture book appearance, I would agree that this is not a book for very young or sensitive children due to the serious subject matter.  Nasreen’s father is taken away by soldiers and her mother never returns home after going off to try and find him.  Although mention of these events is brief, it could be distressing for littler ones.

The ultimate feel of the book though, is very uplifting.  It celebrates the strength of ordinary people (particularly women) to overcome adversity and carry on.  It is a wonderful lesson for older children in the value of education and how an education opens windows to the world, and that knowledge is always with you, “like a good friend.”

We also liked the tidbits of Afghan culture that are sprinkled throughout:  Nasreen’s ancient city Herat was once a beautiful place where music and learning “flourished.”  When a soldier demands to enter the school, he finds only a room full of girls reading the Koran, which is allowed (the girls hid their schoolwork).   The women wear a burqa and are completely covered while out in the streets and the girls wear headscarves.  This book offers lots to discuss and discover about Afghan culture, history and politics.

There is additional interesting information about Afghanistan in an author’s note.  Teachers and parents might find it helpful as a starting point for teaching about modern Afghanistan.

Thumbs up from us for this beautiful and educational multicultural book!


Fluffy – Pom Poms for Peace (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , December 7, 2008 8:35 pm

This week’s Unplugged Project theme (fluffy) was not premeditated, it just popped into my head.

I wanted an adventure this week so I thought long and hard all week about what to do. Cotton balls? Ordinary. Dryer lint? Flammable. Pom poms? What does one do with pom poms besides add some googly eyes? Not in the mood.

But then I found this: Pom Pom International!

Amy Lamé has a vision.  She is trying to bring people of the world together.  But how?  With music?  No.  Art?  No.  What then?  Pom poms!!  What could be less politically charged and more fun and appealing to humans everywhere, than the humble pom pom!  As Amy puts it:

Dealing with differences is much easier with a stress-busting pompom in your hand.

This is what it is all about:

Pom Pom International travels to areas of conflict around the globe. Together, we create whimsical,
non-political, creative balls of fluffy yarn in a gesture of peace and reconciliation. All pom poms are tagged, tracked and sewn together to make the biggest pom pom in the world.

Why not?  I love this idea!!  A peace pom pom!

If you can’t make it to a live pom pom making event, then you can create your pom pom at home and send it to Amy.  Email her a photo of you and your pom pom and she’ll add it to her online gallery.

I remember my mother teaching me how to make pom poms and I have a distinct fondness for them, so I was quite excited to make pom poms for a higher purpose than merely a place to stick googly eyes.

Pom poms are surprisingly easy and fun to make.  All you need is some sturdy cardboard (corrugated is best) and leftover yarn:

Cut two matching circles out of the cardboard. Next cut matching circles out of the middle of the original circles so you have a doughnut shape. (NOTE: Our cardboard was from an extra heavy box so I ended up using a dremel tool to cut these, but you really don’t need cardboard that is quite that tough!):

The width of the “ring” portion of your doughnut (distance between outer edge and start of inner hole) will determine the size of your pom pom (bigger band=bigger pom pom).  Also, I would advise making your donuts a bit bigger than we did so that the middle hole can be bigger.  A larger hole makes it easier to pass the yarn through.

Place your cardboard rings together like a sandwich.

Choose your yarn and cut a length that is several yards/meters long.  Roll it into a small ball so that it can easily pass through the center hole.  Pass the loose end of the yarn through the hole and hold on to it with your thumb.  Wrap yarn tightly around the doughnut like this (once you start wrapping, you can let go of the loose end):

Keep wrapping all around the circle as many times as necessary to completely cover it.  Keep going until you can no longer fit any yarn through the hole … or you run out of patience, whichever comes first!  The more yarn you use, the thicker and puffier your pom pom will be.

When you finish your first small ball, you can easily add on more yarn by simply threading the loose end through and holding it with your thumb, just as you did before.  You can change colors this way too, as I did with my blue and purple pom pom.

When you are through wrapping, cut the strands all the way around the edge of the doughnut with the scissor tips between the two cardboard pieces.

Now wrap a long strand of yarn around the pom pom, between the two sandwiched sections and tie tightly:

And finally, the really exciting part:  gently pull apart the two cardboard rings to reveal your completed pom pom.  Trim and fluff as necessary, and there you have it!  A nice, fluffy, pom pom for peace!

In order to have your pom pom be a part of the giant peace pom pom simply print out a tag for each pom pom from the Pom Pom International website, take a photo of you and your creation for the website’s gallery (send it via email), then ship your tagged pom poms to Pom Pom International in London, England!  Full instructions, tag and addresses are here.

Tomorrow after school we will be off to the post office to send our peace pom poms to England.  The children are very excited!



Amy’s explanation and diagram of making a pom pom – very helpful!

Pom Pom International

Pompoms Can Save the Planet – May 6, 2008, The Scotsman Newspaper

By the way, Amy also gratefully accepts donations of any leftover or recycled yarn balls and bits.  Send all “orphaned or previously loved yarn” here:

NEW Pom Pom International HQ
106 Lower Marsh
London SE1 7AB

It will be used for the free pom pom making events.

If you are feeling really enthusiastic, she also seeks Pom Pom International Ambassadors.  Can you volunteer to organize a pom pom making booth at a crafts or art fair?  How about a club event?  The more pom poms, the better.


Did you do a fluffy Unplugged Project this week?  If so, then please post a link to your project post (not just your blog) in Mr. Linky below.  If you didn’t participate but would like to learn more, then please do not link, but read about it here.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun!


Mama Power – Peace

By , October 14, 2008 8:59 pm

As a mother, much of my daily existence is very mindless and repetitive.  I sometimes feel as though I am repeating the same messages over and over again:  “clean your room,”  “don’t pick your nose,”  “settle down,” or “say please,” are a few favorites of mine.  And of course there are also the two that I swore I would NEVER say to my children:  “we’ll see” (we all know that really means “no”), and “because I said so.” I say these too.

A tape recorder could accomplish the same job, and a robot could do the laundry, cook the meals, pick up the clutter, etc.  Apart from the loving, my daily routine doesn’t take much thought or emotional involvement.

What DOES take intelligence and feeling however, is the effort to instill in our children a sense of our values.

I dislike the term “values.”  It is overused nowadays, and often has a politically conservative connotation.  For some reason it just rubs me the wrong way, like “empower” and “proactive.”

However, the fact is, that every single one of us on this planet has “values.”  We all place emotional or intellectual importance on certain life issues.  In other words, we have principles that we hope to pass along to our children.  While we might wildly disagree on what our “values” should be, we all hope our children will eventually adopt our particular “values” and thus become “good people” (as interpreted differently by each family).

One of the lessons that I would like my children to learn is that of peace.  In my mind peace begins with tolerance and acceptance.  But I don’t want my children to simply tolerate and accept, I want them to truly love the differences that exist on this planet.  I want them to be excited about other cultures, traditions, races, religions, cuisines, languages…everything that is different from themselves and their lives.

I hope I am not rudely presuming too much by venturing to guess that most of the readers of Unplug Your Kids include some version of peace in their set of “values.”  In fact, I believe that most families around the world value peace, even those who we are told are currently “the enemy.”

We as mothers (and fathers of course, but I don’t think many fathers read Unplug Your Kids), have the world’s most important and powerful job.  We have a chance to create a peace-loving generation that celebrates differences. If every family on our planet had peace and tolerance (at the very least) as a value and actively worked to pass this along, could we eradicate war in one generation?

This is obviously a Utopian vision, but as mothers, we must remember that no president, prime minister, king, or queen has the power that we do.  When I get too caught up in dirty laundry and saying “no,” I must remind myself of this.

Like mothers in every corner of this Earth, I feel that even if my children continue to pick their noses into adulthood, I nonetheless will have done my bit for humanity if I manage to produce three enlightened and thoughtful inhabitants of our plant.


It is time again for blogger Mimi Lenox’s semi-annual BlogBlast for PeaceThursday, November 6th is the day when hundreds of bloggers worldwide (40 countries have signed on so far!) will all blog about one topic:  PEACE.  Every post will be entitled Dona Nobis Pacem (“Grant Us Peace”).  This will be my fourth time joining in.

If you hope to contribute to a new generation of peace creators and lovers, please consider joining in.  I’d love to read your thoughts on how you help your children understand that they can and should make a difference in this life.

If you want to participate, head over to Mimi’s to design your own Peace Globe (mine is up above) for your blog and Mimi’s Gallery.

I hope to read your thoughts on November 6th!

Thank You Renny!

By , June 4, 2008 9:54 pm

My Dona Nobis Pacem post was a tad on the dark side this time. These days it is hard for me to think of peace and not free-associate with “gloomy.”

But one positive post that really struck me was by RennyBA from Norway. You should all go and read his words.

His point is that we, as bloggers, can make a difference in this world. He argues that there is a relationship between “peace” and “blogging.” Blogging connects people, and since it creates connections, it MUST ultimately lead to peace. I like that argument.

  • I like the fact that I can read the words of people all over the world and respond to those words.
  • I like it that people from all over the US join in the weekly Unplugged Project, as well as Spain, Canada, the UK, Taiwan, and Fiji so far. We leave our differences behind and all come together once a week in a common endeavor benefiting our children.
  • I like it that Renny, half a world away in Norway, can lift my spirits here in rural Arizona, USA.

Most people are wonderful.

Small epiphanies like this are why I blog.

Thank you Renny!



Dona Nobis Pacem – Vocabulary of Peace

By , June 4, 2008 12:01 am

Apparently UNESCO and the United Nations declared the first ten years of this new millennium a Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World. Well, since we are eight years into our “Decade for a Culture of Peace,” I guess I missed that bit of news, and so did the rest of the world it seems.

My two oldest children are now 5 and 7. They have lived their whole lives during this era of a “Culture of Peace.” Without TV, they don’t see the images of war, but they are old enough to notice the words spoken on NPR.

I wish that the words I was having to explain were words of peace, as the UN and UNESCO had hoped: harmony, diversity, love, friendship. Unfortunately what they are asking about is bombs, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorists, suicide. It could be worse: they haven’t yet inquired about torture, rape, beheading, water boarding … and more importantly, they aren’t living all these horrible words as many children are all over the world.

My parents both grew up in England during WWII. They knew war as more than mere words on a radio. They lived it every day of their childhoods. Air raids, bombs, blackouts, gas masks, shelters, barrage balloons, and shrapnel were part of their daily vocabulary and experience.

Will there ever come a day when those words of horror and violence will be mere ghoulish historical curiosities such as words like guillotine, drawing and quartering, the rack, and the iron maiden?

I want children to grow up learning a vocabulary of peace. As much as I would wish it to be otherwise, it seems unlikely that those fortunate souls will be my children. I simply must hope that some future generation will know the common horrible words of our era only as mere historical remnants of a more violent and primitive time.


Please visit Mimi’s Blog for a master list of all the peace posts that will be written today by bloggers from all over the world.

Peace be with you.

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