Childhood during the '50s was idyllic even when the air-raid siren on our corner blasted every week or so. After all, our parents consoled, the siren was just a drill and not to worry. In school we tucked ourselves under desks, then at the teacher's whistle, we filed out of class to walk home and play. Another drill, another day. No one told us what would really happen if bombs dropped.
Children of the '80s know better. In between "Sesame Street" and "The Brady Bunch," TV beams news about nuclear winter and radiation sickness, especially in the wakes of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. An alarming suggestion is that the rise in adolescent suicide is linked to a despair that kids feel about our planet's future. It's this worry that Judith Vigna confronts in her excellent picture book, "Nobody Wants a Nuclear War."
A brother and sister are reading a magazine with a mushroom cloud on its cover and talking about being scared that they'll never grow up. "There'll be no more houses or trees or animals or parents. Only a dark, smoky desert like we saw on television." They sneak to the woods behind their house where they build a hideaway in a secret cave, "just in case." When their mom finds them, she hugs them and listens. Then she tells about the air-raid drills of her childhood and that she, too, had wondered if she'd ever live to grow up.