Yazan is no longer allowed out to the park to play. He isn’t allowed outside at all. He no longer sees his friend next door. The world is changing. His parents stay inside with the news on and the volume turned up. Their fear and worry take over the house like a dark cloud. Meanwhile, Yazan is bored. Will he ever be allowed outside again?
A poignant and sensitive look at the war in Syria from a small child’s perspective.
The brilliant thing about this book is how it tells children enough, but not so much that they will be frightened. Certainly, they will understand that Yazan is frightened. The illustrations make clear that Yazan’s world has turned to a dark place. Blackness shrouds the hallways and strange images appear on the television screen. The genius is not a single one of these images tell children exactly what is happening in Syria. Yazan eventually learns that there is fighting in the streets. Until the fighting stops he will be stuck indoors.
That is enough information for a very small child. Conversely, if the child in question came from a wartorn country, they could apply their own knowledge and use the book to talk about their experiences and emotions. The book isn’t so bright as to make light of the subject but it tackles a difficult subject in a child-friendly manner.
I love the use of colour – Yazan’s home and local area are painted in a sombre pallet to reflect the situation. Everything which brings him joy – his bike, his parents and his memories of outdoors are given a splash of colour. In the final pages, he and his mother paint a pretend park inside the house, bringing joy and colour back to the house.
A book which promotes empathy and gives children a space to ask questions about the more frightening things in the world.