The Day War Came ISBN: 9781406376326
Published by Walker, 2018
The dedication at the front of this outstanding picture book says it all: ‘This book is dedicated to children who are lost and alone and to those who help them.’ Intensely moving, beautifully illustrated, and full of hope at the end, it begins with a happy family having breakfast mother, father, little girl and baby brother. The little girl is soon off to school where she spends a happy morning until ‘the war comes’. Her home is destroyed, and her family with it. ‘War took everything, war took everyone. I was ragged, bloody, all alone.’ War is a character in this book. The little girl is soon running away from the war along with many other refugees, and they walk and walk, sometimes have lifts in cars or buses, and, finally, go across the sea in a leaky boat. She finds refuge in a large camp, but only in a corner of a hut with a dirty blanket. And here she realises that war has followed her, that it is within and around and part of her: ‘it had taken possession of my heart.’ She spends days walking through the nearby town where no one is friendly, and when she finally comes to a school, she goes in to find that this is not a friendly place either. The teacher says she can’t come in because there is no chair for her. The war has come to this place too. But then something special happens. A little boy comes to her hut with a chair; he and his friends have all brought chairs from home so that the refugee children can come to school after all. The little girl begins to be able to push back the war and feel that others care about her. The poem came about because Nicola Davies was incensed by the British government’s refusal to let in unaccompanied refugee children, and it was first published in the The Guardian with pictures of chairs. The idea went viral, and there were soon myriads of pictures of chairs to show solidarity with children who had lost everything. It should be in every school library. Exceptional.