'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 30 September 2018

Review: The Day War Came

Nicola Davies always chooses powerful subjects to sink her teeth into and create a story that lives and breathes. 

This story was inspired by an incident in 2016, in which the UK government refused to give sanctuary to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. 

It was a single refugee child, refused entry into a school because there was no chair for her to sit on that sparked the genesis of this book.

Profoundly moving, this poetic championing of the weakest individuals will bring tears to your eyes as it did to mine. Making my way through the pages, I felt I was the child that had everything stolen from her by war. She was one of thousands that slept in holes or barns or any hut or corner they could find. One of all those desperates that crossed mountains and rode on the back of trucks, then travelled on a boat that leaked and almost sank.

I knew her suffering as if it was my own. I felt her isolation and the inhumanity and disregard of the teacher that sent her away. She walked forever trying to drive the war out of herself. But it was locked inside her.

Then the tears flowed, when a boy came to her hut with a chair so you can come to school. All of his friends followed his example.

This is what writing is about, especially when writing for children. Nicola Davies goes for the jugular. She wants people to bleed with emotion because only then will they feel what she is trying to convey. She does this superbly, repeating what she did in her extraordinary depiction of migration and its isolation in her recent picture book, King of the Sky.

Illustrator Rebecca Cobb must be commended for her insightful translation of Davies’ moving text. The inner and outer darkness and complete sense of loss in the child is expressed as it is – darkness. The girl’s acknowledgement that she was not the only one with this darkness is obvious due to Cobb’s ability to immerse herself in the text.

The front end papers depict empty chairs of all kinds. The back end papers show children sitting in the chairs. That says so much.

At the end there is an author’s note about what motivated Nicola Davies to write this book, and how anyone interested in helping, can do so.

Title: The Day War Came
Author: Nicola Davies
Illustrator: Rebecca Cobb
Publisher: Walker Books, $24.99
Publication Date: June 2018
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781406376326
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture Book