Wikipedia.org is one of my favorite sources of information. Regular encyclopedias are just fine, but they often seem stodgy by comparison. Critics fault Wikipedia for being less reliable than the standard volumes, but it's so lively and current that I accept the risk.

If accuracy is a concern (as it should be), it's interesting to compare a Wikipedia entry to a standard encyclopedia entry.

When I was looking for information about Memorial Day, I found this fascinating information from Wikipedia. Maybe everybody else knew this, but I didn't:

"According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first memorial day was observed by formerly enslaved black people at the Washington Race Course (today the location of Hampton Park) in Charleston, South Carolina. The race course had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp in 1865 as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died there. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, formerly enslaved people exhumed the bodies from the mass grave and reinterred them properly with individual graves. They built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch and declared it a Union graveyard. The work was completed in only ten days. On May 1, 1865, the Charleston newspaper reported that a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, including 2800 children, processed to the location for a celebration which included sermons, singing, and a picnic on the grounds, thereby creating the first Decoration Day."

Promoting peace is a focus of many books for children and my focus for Memorial Day. "Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace" by James Proimos is a picture book that even preschoolers will understand. Paulie is just a regular boy who decides to water flowers, share his lunch, apologize for misdeeds, be kind to animals and settle misunderstandings with cupcakes. I like to think about children making the connections between kindness, compassion, generosity and world peace.

"The General" by Janet Charters is newly published in a 50-year anniversary edition. This picture book, for children ages 5-9, is about a general who has an epiphany. He tells his soldiers to "leave the army and return to their homes and jobs. He wanted them to help him make their country the most beautiful country in the world." Peace and beauty reign. Generals visit from both East and West and proclaim "The General" the most famous general in the whole world." In a perfect world ...

"Peaceful Heroes" by Jonah Winter is a collection of short biographies that includes "heroes" from Jesus to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Besides the familiar names, there are less well-known "heroes" such as fireman William Feehan. I especially like this book because it documents the ways in which small actions by ordinary people have made big and positive differences. For children ages 9-12.

We can all be peaceful heroes by starting early to teach peace.

Reach Fran Hawk at franbooks@yahoo.com.