End of the World–for Kids!

Nuclear War coverNobody Wants a Nuclear War

Indeed, no one does want a nuclear war! That is still true today.

There’s no perfect way to talk to children about scary subjects. Maybe a book will help them wrap their little brains around the idea of nuclear war.

Then again, maybe it will give them nightmares.

This is the story of a brother and sister who are scared to death of nuclear war.

The story starts out with them hiding under their bed:

hiding under bed

hiding under bed

Then they found a cave in the woods and built a bomb shelter. Well, they put a blanket and some water in a cave and felt safe, anyway. Sorry, kids, but that won’t help you in a nuclear war. You’ll be blown to smithereens along with everything else.

bomb shelter

bomb shelter

Mom finds them and helps them to understand that the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was “more terrible than anyone could have ever imagined.” Thanks mom, that helps. I feel better now.

Mommy explained

Mommy explained

You know what would really help? Making a banner to send to the president. Don’t worry, he’ll get it and he’ll hang it in his room and we’ll all be saved from nuclear war.

Banner for Daddy

Banner for Daddy

Is it me or does the little girl look like she needs to visit the potty? Awwwwkwaaaard.

(Now, before anyone gets all worked up, I know that children worry about things and I see that this might be useful to someone, even if it is 27 years old. It’s almost more relevant today, actually. We’re just having some fun here. It’s what we do.)



  1. This is terrible. Suppose they are worrying. Maybe they read something on the Internet. Telling them that the destruction was more terrible than anyone could imagine (after reading that) immediately leads to “How?” Given the nature of the book, I can see the parents telling their kids about the graphic awfulness, possibly in Volume 2.

    And maybe mentioning that today’s bombs are a thousand times more powerful.

    I read “Hiroshima,” by John Hersey, when I was nine. I would not wish that on any child, or anything like it.

    *** Tell them we’ve gone 68 years without a nuclear war! ***

  2. WhatEVER crisis is brewing in your little household, Judy’s gotcha covered! She’s also the author of:

    My Big Sister Takes Drugs
    When Eric’s Mom Fought Cancer
    I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much
    Mommy and Me By Ourselves Again
    She’s Not My Real Mother

    and her forthcoming work,

    My Books Are Out of Print and Mean Librarians Are Making Fun of Them

    1. We’ve had “She’s Not My Real Mother” on here before. I’m surprized I didn’t notice the similarity of illustration style.

  3. Isn’t Hiroshima and Nagasaki deep thinking even for adults, let alone little kids?
    Even more tragic, I think I once read about a typhoon or tropical storm that further devastated Hiroshima just after the 1945 atomic bomb attacks.

  4. The year this was published I was 5. My (idiot) teacher that year decided to introduce us to nuclear war via the Raymond Briggs’ book ‘When the wind blows’. If you haven’t come across this, it is an excellent graphic novel aimed at an adult audience, satirising the UK government’s civil defence programme. At the end of the book, everyone dies of radiation sickness while singing a hymn. Well, except those who had already been shown burning to death earlier in the book.

    The book was given to us in the immediate wake of the Chernobyl disaster. I repeat : we were 5 years old. ‘Nobody wants a nuclear war’ would have been a pleasant story in comparison.

    Co-incidentally, my teacher was suddenly transferred to teach the oldest children in the school for the remaining term, and left at the end of the school year.

  5. I don’t see how this is suppose to make kids feel better. The only person who can write for kids about nuclear war for kids was DR. Seuss. (The Butter Battle Book)

  6. I don’t know why kids SHOULDN’T be exposed to an honest discussion of nuclear war and the dangers of radiation. Children have been among the victims of both nuclear war and nuclear accidents.

    It’s not as if we’ve put nuclear weapons and nuclear power behind us. In the US, there is a push to build more nuclear plants, and we still don’t have permanent storage for the waste we’ve already generated. We still have a nuclear arsenal, and a big part of our foreign policy is about controlling the spread of nuclear weapons in other countries.

    In discussions about what to do about terrorism today, I often hear people saying, “We should just nuke them.” Maybe if people knew what that means, they wouldn’t be so cavalier.

    1. I agree with J. Of course, no one really wants to scare kids. At the same time, one of the great opportunities of childhood is that kids are still impressionable and shock-able. The Butter Battle Book freaked the hell out of me as a kid, which I think is a good thing. I read or had read to me Hiroshima and The Butter Battle Book in grade school, and I think that scary books like those, along with the Holocaust-o-rama to which I was subjected, helped me become a more ethical adult. That said, I still find this post amusing.

  7. Let me repeat: I read Hiroshima when I was nine. It was VERY traumatizing. I don’t think such an emotional experience is good for a child.

    Lots of things we don’t tell little children. We ease them into it as they grow up.

    Should third-graders be exposed to the contents of the county medical examiner’s drawers to get used to the idea of death? After all, we all die, some as children.

  8. This was a major obsession here in Europe throughout the 1980s. Many children were scared by teachers, parents and other thoughtless adults. In the most extreme and depressing case, a British mother murdered her children and commited suicide because she ‘didn’t want them to die’ in the nuclear holocaust she’d imagined…

    There was never any suggestion that the enemies of Democracy would be dropping bombs on us. It was always a given that NATO had ‘started’ the imaginary war and our leaders were ‘responsible’ for everything bad that happened.

    My own take was that I wouldn’t mind being in on the end of the world. What’s annoying about death is everybody else still being alive when you’ve gone forever. If everyone went forever all at once, there’d be nothing to miss, would there? (For some reason this observation caused extreme annoyance and anger, especially to members of CND, whenever expressed.)

  9. I remember reading magazines, papers and such in the 80’s and seeing parents and kids carrying signs saying “No Nukes Please”. I always wondered if the little kids in the pictures knew what “nukes” were, or how much they knew.

    The kids building a cave hideout reminds me of “Grave of the Fireflies”. That and “Barefoot Gen” do a superb and terrifying job of telling about nuclear war from the point of view of those most affected by it.

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