War is Over by David Almond

War is Over

David Almond, Author

David Litchfield, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, May 12, 2020

Pages: 128

Suitable for ages: 9-12

Themes: Children, Effects of War, Women, WW I effort, Homefront, Community

Synopsis:

It’s 1918, and war is everywhere. John’s father is fighting in the trenches far away in France, while his mother works in a menacing munitions factory just along the road. His teacher says that John is fighting, too, that he is at war with enemy children in Germany. But John struggles. “I am a child. How can I be at war?”

One day, in the wild woods outside town, John has an impossible moment: a dreamlike meeting with a German boy named Jan. John catches a glimpse of a better world, in which children like Jan and himself can one day scatter the seeds of peace.

David Almond brings his ineffable sensibility to a poignant tale of the effects of war on children, interwoven with David Litchfield’s gorgeous black-and-white illustrations.

What I like about this book:

David Almond’s short novel, War is Over, is a both a poignant and sensitive novel. It explores the emotions of a boy and the attitudes of his community about war and peace. This novel raises many questions for readers and is a timely discussion topic in classrooms.

John is conflicted about the war. His father has been gone so long that he can’t remember what he looks like. He just wants the war over. So he writes letters to the King of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury and asks them when the war will end — no answers.

The book addresses the impact of the war on the homefront. There is fear and hatred for the Germans that carries over into the classroom. Especially when the teacher tells his students “they are children at war” and makes John and his classmates march like soldiers as they go on an outing to visit the munitions factory, where most of their mothers work making bombs. Some of the boys play war after school, but not John.

John and his classmates encounter a friend’s Uncle Gordon, who is ridiculed because he’s a conscientious objector. Uncle Gordon traveled to Germany before the war, and has a fist full of drawings of young German children. He impresses upon the students that “children aren’t monsters and are children like you.” John manages to snatch a picture of a boy named “Jan from Düsseldorf.” He writes Jan a friendly letter. He dreams of Jan and a better world. He imagines seeing Jan in the forest, which becomes a coping mechanism for John until the war ends.

Almond’s lyrical text meanders around the beautiful pen and ink drawings by David Litchfield, which fill  every page. Doves fly above and turn into falling bombs and tears turn into shrapnel. His artwork shows the starkness of the factory as shifts begin and end and women make their way home. A somber topic, but presented so sympathetically and poetically.

David Almond is the acclaimed author of many award-winning novels for children, including Skellig, Kit’s Wilderness, and My Name is Mina. David Almond’s books are beloved all over the world, and in 2010 he was the recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. He lives in England.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie

Dusk Explorers

Lindsay Leslie, Author

Ellen Rooney, Illustrator

Page Street Kids, Fiction, Jun.2, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dusk, Summer, Play, Games, Fireflies, Explore, Nature, Neighborhoods

Opening: “The sun begins to sink. The neighborhood beckons…”

Amazon Synopsis:

It’s that special time of evening, when the hours and the possibilities seem endless: Light is fading. A buzz of excitement and wonder takes over the neighborhood….What outdoor adventures await?

Join a diverse group of suburban kids as they dash and dodge in classic street games like tag and kick-the-can and reconnect with nature’s simple pleasures catching frogs, hunting fireflies, and climbing trees. These explorers play, laugh, and make the most of their own front yards right up until their parents call out that “It’s time to come home!” But when the sun begins to set tomorrow, they’ll be back for more evening excitement!

This ode to the timeless magic of summer evenings spent outside will remind kids of the fun and friends that wait just outside their doors and leave adults smiling with nostalgia for their own dusk explorations.

Why I like this book:

Lindsay Leslie’s Dusk Explorers is a beautiful tribute to magical summer evenings. It is the perfect summer gift book. It will bring back childhood memories for parents and encourage children to explore the outdoors at the special time of dusk. With the pandamic curtailing a lot of play, parents can encourage kids to explore their own yards, play games, catch fireflies, gaze at the stars, and listen to the sounds of nature as darkness comes. There is so much to do and explore.

The text is written in a free-flowing verse that is very lyrical. There is a lovely rhythm that speaks to the  senses and beckons children to come outdoors to play. Each spread begins with: looking, calling, searching, hoping, waiting, longing, watching, wishing, and listening. “Calling for leapfroggers who love to jump over backs and fall down on itchy blades of freshly cut grass …” and “Wishing for firefly catchers who love to fling their nets into the dimming sky sprinkled with diamonds.”

Ellen Rooney’s illustrations are lively, colorful and show an active group of diverse children having the time of their lives. Her artwork is simply breathtaking as we watch the sun lower in the sky, fireflies flicker in the dark and the stars shine brightly above.

Note: I reviewed this book today in honor of what would have been my father’s 99th birthday! I hold so many memories of my favorite time of day as a child — dusk! That meant I’d spend time playing catch or throwing a frisbee with my dad in the backyard. Sometimes we’d water the grass to nudge the worms to the surface and then we’d snatch them for fishing bait. Other times we’d climb the ladder to the roof and gaze at the stars. And the entire neighborhood would become alive with parents and kids enjoying the evening together. I’m sure many of you will find this book very nostalgic!

Resources: Encourage your children to go outside. This could be a fun activity for both kids and their parents as the day cools. I remember playing catch with my dad, throwing the frisbee, riding my bike with friends and mothers around the neighborhood circle, and watering the grass to snatch worms from the grass to go fishing with my dad. Be creative and have fun!

Lindsay Leslie  spent her childhood summers playing all the games found on these pages. Nowadays, she still loves the outdoors, but she love writing too. She is also the author of This Book Is Spinelesss and Nova the Star Eater. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family and two dogs.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.