Cover of Be the Change shows Gandhi holding a stubby pencil in his hand while grandson looks onIn Be the Change, one of Gandhi’s grandchildren reminisces about his experiences with his famous grandfather, learning to understand his teaching that wastefulness leads to violence. This is no walk-to-the-sea story but instead the memory of a grandpa being disappointed when his grandson throws away the nub of a pencil. He makes the boy search until he finds it and then continue to use it.

The grandson is at first annoyed with his grandfather and then ashamed of himself. But he remains confused about why a stubby pencil matters. Over the course of the book, and over a series of conversations with his grandfather, he sees how small actions have serious repercussions.

The book has a lot of language that will be unfamiliar to most young readers–“ashram,” “Satyagraha,” “Bapuji”–but their meanings are understandable in context. And the richness of language helps to situate the story in India. The layers of details in the story work well to establish the setting.

Both the book trailer and the back matter talk about how the co-author, Bethany Hegedus, came to be involved in the project. She was trying to find a way to make some good come out of the 9-11 attack. This book could prompt some important discussions with children about the power of everyday choices to make the world better.

I love books that come out of family history (like this and this and this). Sure, this one is about someone famous, but much of its charm and power comes from the intimacy of the family memory. This is a follow-up to another memoir, Grandfather Gandhi.

Here’s a book trailer for Be the Change.

Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk. Atheneum: 2016

Children around a globe.


I participate every week in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.