Sometimes life isn’t about cuddly kittens and messy pizza. Sometimes life is scary, unpredictable and discordant. If you’d like to address the latter with children, Eve Bunting’s Smoky Night is an honest story about the Los Angeles riots through the eyes of a child. Daniel’s cat goes missing when he and his fellow tenants evacuate their apartment building due to the fires. Neighbors who normally don’t associate end up in a shelter together, united in their fears and troubles. A hope for peace pervades this book, and David Diaz’s illustrations capture the intensity of the situation impeccably, thus the Caldecott Medal.
This book transcends one historical incident, and its emotion can aid discussions with children on any event with roots in human enmity. People do bad things and in a world where we teach our children to behave, it is rather confusing to a child when adults behave badly. This book offers a point to start the discussion. What can we do when other people threaten our safety?