News & Media

Helping Kids Understand War

When stories of war are on the radio and nightly news, it can be upsetting to both children and their caregivers. Talking about war with kids is hard because it’s so complicated. Oversimplifying the topic may lead to misunderstandings, while providing context that helps bring the conflict into focus can be challenging. When we talk about it, kids might feel scared or worried about what’s happening. We have to be careful and approach children in an age-appropriate way so they can understand, while still making them feel safe.

WHY? is a wordless picture book by international award-winning creator Nikolai Popov to help parents, teachers, and caretakers tackle the sensitive topics of conflict and war. Consider pairing with discussion questions to help guide your conversation with kids.

In this new edition of a the modern classic, a frog finds a beautiful flower and picks it for himself.

When a mouse sees him with it, his jealousy overcomes him, and he swipes it.

Frog’s friends come to his aid and chase the mouse away. But before the frogs can celebrate, Mouse’s friends return for a counter-attack. Before long the conflict has devolved into a full-scale frog-mouse war.

By the end of it, all either side can ask is: Why? With an afterword by children’s literature expert Leonard S. Marcus, this seemingly simple book is an invaluable way to talk to young children about conflict and warfare.

“I have created this book because it seems to me that if children can understand the senselessness of war, if they can see how easily one can be sucked into a cycle of violence, they may become a force for peace in the future. I also hope that adults who share the book with children will reexamine their own thoughts on the futility of war.” —Nikolai Popov

“In Why?, Popov presents readers with a lushly verdant watercolor vision of our world, then inserts within it the story of a petty dispute that rapidly escalates from bad to worse to catastrophic. Surreally, old leather boots and shoes, repurposed as armored vehicles that are just the right size for frog and mouse warriors, swarm the battlefield. What, though, if the fertile imagination that gave rise to those clever contraptions had been put to better ends? Popov shows us why we should cherish our world and why we should not take it for granted. Why, he asks us, would anyone choose to do otherwise?” —Leonard S. Marcus

  • A National Council for the Social Studies Notable Trade Books
  • A seemingly simple story with strikingly timeless art that serve as an invaluable way to talk to young children about conflict and warfare
  • Includes a note from the author and an afterword by children’s literature expert Leonard S. Marcus
  • Downloadable discussion guide available (see below)

“Even the youngest reader will quickly grasp the point of Popov’s forceful allegory.” —Publishers Weekly

“Makes a powerful point about the cycle of violence that seems to dominate the headlines.” —Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich,

“Outstanding, thought-provoking book makes clear the absurdity and senseless destructive nature of war.” —Kendal Rautzhan, Books to Borrow, Books to Buy, nationally syndicated column 

[S]hows, to great effect, how conflicts can grow out of petty disagreements….a book that children and adults alike can connect with.” — Through the Looking Glass