The Forgiveness Garden: A Book That Transforms the World

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The Forgiveness GardenBook Title: The Forgiveness Garden

Written by: Lauren Thompson

Illustrated by: Christy Hale

Published by: Feiwel and Friends October 2012

Click here to Buy the Book

Synopsis: 

A long time ago and far away--although it could be here, and it could be now--a boy threw a stone and injured a girl. For as long as anyone could remember, their families had been enemies, and their towns as well, so it was no surprise that something bad had happened.

Hate had happened. Revenge had happened. And that inspired more hate and more calls for revenge. But this time, a young girl decided to try something different...

Inspired by the original Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, and the movement that has grown up around it, Lauren Thompson has created a timeless parable for all ages that shows readers a better way to resolve conflicts and emphasizes the importance of moving forward together.

Why We Love This Book:

One of the most powerful introductions to forgiveness Reach And Teach co-founders ever had was meeting mothers from Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, who had each lost children to "the troubles." They had been brought together by a project at Stanford University led by Rev. Byron Bland, who had worked on peace and reconciliation in Ireland for many years. As the women told their stories, of the never-ending fighting and the pain of losing a child, the anger, the fear, the cycle of hurt and revenge, we wondered how they had ever found their way to forgiveness. One mother responded to a question about how she could forgive those who had killed her son by saying "I haven't forgiven yet. But we had to stop. We had to stop first. Forgiveness may come later, but we had to stop first. It was enough already." 

Craig Wiesner shares: One night I sat on the floor of a Salvadoran home and listened as a family shared the nightmare of what had happened to them during the civil war in the 1980's. One man talked about how most of his family had been killed and he had been taken captive. He was being tortured by Salvadoran militia but in addition to their voices he also heard something in the background as he was being questioned... English. He could see out of the corner of his eye "Norte Americanos" (US soldiers or CIA) who were telling the Salvadorans what questions to ask. The scars from his torture were still visible, not just on his body, but you could feel the scars in his spirit. Yet here I was, a former American soldier, sitting in this village that had suffered so much, and the families there had welcomed me with open arms, shared what little food they had, even gave me their best bed. Had they forgiven the soldiers who had tortured and killed? Maybe, maybe not. But, they knew when enough was enough and had made peace. 

As Derrick Kikuchi and I sat in the rubble-strewn home of a family in Afghanistan in 2002, with a young boy who had nearly lost both arms and legs to US cluster bombs, we wondered how the family and neighbors could treat us with such amazing love and hospitality. They'd been at war for so many years and our people. the "them" in any of these stories was "us" yet there was no hatred, no anger, just the strongest desire to make it all stop. And.... "please" they pleaded, "go home and tell our stories." We did, and do. 

We all need tools to help us realize when enough is enough, to stop the cycle of retribution, and to begin the path to forgiveness and this book will help pave the road towards, we hope, many people learning that  important lesson.

Kirkus Reviews shared that the names of the two villages in the story were "cleverly based on" the Sanskrit words for "us" and "them." The story is somewhat universal, two groups of people hate each other, probably not even remembering why the feud started, but it goes on and on and on. Things happen and hate continues. Someone gets hurt and someone else demands revenge. But the author adds some important questions to this tale of eventual forgiveness. "If we forgive them, must we forget what happened?" "Must we apologize?" These are often two stumbling blocks to peacemaking. How can you forget when your child has been harmed? How can you apologize when, perhaps, you personally didn't do anything to cause all of this pain?

There are no simple answers. That's one of the key messages in the book and it is one of the critical things to remember when trying to find a way towards peace and away from violence. The answers become more elusive the longer the violence goes on. BUT, this book provides an answer to anyone who ever says "Those people have been fighting for such a long time I don't think they'll ever stop."

The truth is THEY DO STOP. Someone just needs to be the first to say "enough!"

Lauren Thompson has done a fabulous job telling this story in a compelling way. Christy Hale communicated that story through stunnigly beautiful art, where the characters' emotions come right off the pages and into your heart. You can see the slow but steady softening, the subtle changes in the colors, and the eventual warmth of the very beginnings of trust.

This is the best children's book we've seen this year and we're confident that it will be a timeless treasure. Superb!  

Other Reviews:

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Green America approved