Last year when I was teaching children’s book writing in Tirana, Albania, a writer from Kosovo asked me how I would deal with war in a picture book. I replied that I wouldn’t deal with it. I think children under stress need stories that emphasize close family relationships, stories with humor, and with characters who exercise some control over their lives. We cannot protect children from reality, but we can certainly give them stories that offer hope and comfort. Indeed, my Albanian students responded with the greatest enthusiasm to such classic stories of reassurance as Goodnight, Moon and The Runaway Bunny. Books can be a haven for children, and for the youngest child, I think that is one of their greatest functions.
Fran Manushkin was a children’s book editor at Harper & Row and Random House, and is the author of over 30 books for children, including Daughters of Fire: Heroines of the Bible, and Miriam ‘s Cup: A Passover Story. She teaches and mentors children’s book writers and illustrators for the Open Society Institute.