WOW Review: Reading Across Cultures

Pin, When I Grow Up, I will Win the Nobel Peace Prize

When I Grow Up, I will Win the Nobel Peace Prize
Written by Isabel Pin
Translated from the German by Nancy Seitz
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2006, 28 pp, ISBN 10: 0-374-388313-8

The universal phrase “When I grow up” frames the daily life experiences of one child who has high aspirations to be good and wants to be recognized for this accomplishment. The simple text and almost naive illustrations relate his understanding that grown people love their neighbors, care for the poor and unfortunate, and protect animals and the environment, among other characteristics of good citizens. However, this young man’s daily life events, as pictured here, reflect the changes that must occur for his hopes to be accomplished. Comical scenes depict him not being kind, brave, or standing up for injustice. At the end, the reader leaves the boy who realizes he has much to do and hurries to begin by untying his sister (or neighbor) who is seen bound under his bed.

Capturing both the humor and the irony of a child considering what it means to be a peace-maker while tempted to behave otherwise, this book presents an authentic universal theme through the specific events in the life of one child. Contrasting thought and action, despite the child’s awareness of how he would like to act, might also be paralleled to the adult world — the struggle for peace begins now with the little everyday episodes that reflect acts of kindness. Such a text, providing connections for many readers, reflects an authentic view of human rights and the notion that the preservation of these rights is a responsibility of all people. The brief history of the Nobel Peace Prize, provided at the end, provides support for the belief that the values of many people throughout the global community are reflected in this simple narrative. A website for further examination of this valued prize is given. Paired with books such as Paths to Peace by Jane Zalben (2006) and A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley (2007), young readers can potentially realize that the notion of peace is a cultural value shared by many people within the global community.

The author of this book grew up in France, studied in Strasbourg, and lives in Germany. Her experiences in many countries and with diverse people have provided her a life context within which to identify the simple, shared complexities of human nature.

Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX