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The Day the War Came

The Day War Came

Published: 4 Apr 2019

Paperback / softback, 32 pages

Recommended for age 5+ and 7+

By Nicola Davies

Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

Published by Walker Books Ltd

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A powerful and necessary picture book - the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known. Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble.

Imagine going on a long and difficult journey - all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious...

When the government refused to allow 3000 child refugee experience to enter this country in 2016, Nicola Davies was so angry she wrote a poem. It started a campaign for which artists contributed drawings of chairs, symbolising a seat in a classroom, education, kindness, the hope of a future. The poem has become this book, movingly illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, which should prove a powerful aid for explaining the ongoing refugee crisis to younger readers.

Tagged refugee experience and war and conflict

Reviewed by Mary Roche

The Day War Came is about a little girl who is left all alone when war comes out of the blue.

From the outset, we know this will not be an easy read. The endpapers offer some hope, perhaps. Lots of empty chairs in front, while at the back, they are occupied by mostly smiling children. Rebecca Cobb’s gentle, childlike illustrations are extremely nuanced. There is much to think about; the view from a breakfast table indicates that the setting is middle Eastern though it could be any family anywhere. ‘My mother made breakfast, kissed my nose and walked with me to school’. A mother protects her little daughter from the perils of the journey to school, where she thinks she will be safe.

In school, the little girl learns of frogs and birds. Adults will shiver at the ominous artwork beside her, and the helicopters appearing in the sky outside. And then, with horrific suddenness, war leaves the child ‘ragged, bloody and alone’. We are relieved when we see that she survived. But with her home gone and her family dead, who will comfort, protect or even care for her? Poignantly, throughout, the little girl wears the same outfit. And they and she, get dirtier and more bedraggled as the story evolves.

Nicola Davies explains that she wrote the text in 2016 in response to the UK Government’s decision to refuse sanctuary to 3,000 unaccompanied children. Endorsed by Amnesty International UK, The Day War Came should be in every school. However, it will require sensitive handling in classroom settings.

Dr Mary Roche is an education consultant. Passionate about the importance of dialogical pedagogy, literacy and children’s books in education, she is frequently invited to be a keynote speaker in Ireland and the UK. A former education lecturer and classroom teacher, Mary is the author of ‘Developing Children’s Critical Thinking through Picturebooks’ (Routledge 2015). A bookworm, she is at her happiest when immersed in good children’s literature.

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