The Day War Came by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb
Then after lunch war came.
A little girl from a happy family is having an ordinary day at school when her world is torn apart. Her town is turned to rubble and she is left alone. She runs, then joins a group of people to walk for miles and miles, and to travel over the sea in a dangerous boat.
She’s supposed to have left the war behind but it is everywhere. In the stares people give her. In the closed doors. In the teacher who won’t let her join in with the local school.
This book was inspired by a true story of a child refused entry to a school because there wasn’t a chair for her to sit on. In the days after this story broke, people posted pictures of empty chairs in solidarity with the children who had been refused an education. The book ends on a happier note, with the children carrying their chairs out in protest and setting up school in a space where anyone was welcome to join in. In the book as in life, the younger generation offers hope from the prejudices of the adult world.
Where many picture books about the current crisis tell the story in a way which allows children to fill the gaps with their own knowledge, this book doesn’t shy away from the realities of war. It shows explosions, loss and dangerous journeys across the sea. It would be a brilliant book to read with older children and young adults, as it is very visual but ends on a note of hope that the rest of the world might open its hearts.
The illustrations show how, although she walks through some leafy and beautiful places, the little girl falls back into places of darkness and despair. The dark corner she makes a bed in later in the book mirrors the darkness of the initial explosion. This touching story reminds us that war starts in one place but its effects last long after.
This book is on the CILIP Kate Greenaway shortlist and it is a title which is both relevant to this year and likely to encourage empathy. As well as the extraordinary illustrations and moving text, it is a tale of our times.
A book which shows how compassion and open arms can make a difference to people in desperate situations.
The winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal is announced on 18th June 2019. Learn more and keep up with news of the awards on the official website.
Thanks to Walker Books and Riot Communications for my gifted copy of The Day War Came. Opinions my own.