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Monday, September 12, 2016

Gandhi Story Helps Kids See How Their Actions Matter

Be the Change, A Grandfather Gandhi Story
Written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus and Illustrated by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Ages: 4-8

The author Arun Gandhi is a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi who fought for Indian independence from Great Britain and represented a philosophy of bringing about change through peaceful means. In “Be the Change,” Arun tells a story of when he was a boy and lived in his grandfather’s Sevagram ashram or service village.

At that time, 350 followers of his grandfather lived in the village. Their purpose was to live simply and nonviolently. Everyone awoke at sunrise and attended a morning prayer meeting. Then they worked all day in service for one another. They washed clothes, planted vegetables, picked fruit, spun yarn, and did any other tasks that needed to be done.

In this story, Arun learns why his grandfather taught his followers not to waste. After Arun throws away a stub of a pencil, Grandfather Bapuji makes him find it. He tells the boy that waste is a violent action because when resources are low, people hoard. Those who are forced to do without may eventually strike out. Then he has the child draw a tree of violence with physical and passive violence as the branches. “Before you act, think how it would affect others,” he says.

Under physical violence, Arun pastes cards saying, “pushing” and “kicking.” On the passive violence side, he puts “bullying,” “eating more than my share,” and “throwing away the pencil.” Arun realizes that his thoughts and actions are important, not just to himself but to the world. Grandfather Gandhi puts his arm around him and tells him, “Be the change you wish to see in the world, Arun.”

This story helps children to think about the importance of their own thoughts and actions in promoting peace. It is also written well with imagery and dialogue that move the story along. The beautiful, colorful illustrations create mood and help to make the story a powerful one.

About the Authors and Illustrator:

Arun Gandhi is the fifth grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi. A journalist for over 30 years for the “India Times,” he now writes a blog for the “Washington Post.” His first children’s book was “Grandfather Gandhi.” He serves as president of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute and travels the world speaking to government leaders, as well as university, high school and younger students about the practices of peace and nonviolence. He lives in Rochester, NY. Visit him at

Bethany Hegedus is the author of “Between Us Baxters” and “Truth with a Capital T,” both Bank Street Best Books of the Year, and coauthor of “Grandfather Gandhi.” She owns and operates the Writing Barn, a popular writing workshop and retreat center in Austin, TX. She teaches widely and speaks across the country. Visit her at

Evan Turk is an Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor winner, the author/illustrator of “The Storyteller,” and the illustrator of “Grandfather Gandhi.” Evan is originally from Colorado and loves being in nature, traveling, and learning about other cultures through drawing. He is a graduate of Parsons and continues his studies as a member of Dalvero Academy. Visit him at  

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