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

Friday 26 April 2019

Review: When the War Is Over

Breathtaking in appearance, this stunning book reflects on the fragility of peace and freedom, the heartbreak at parting, the joy of reunions, and how love endures through all the horrors born of war.

Two of the most revered creators of children’s books have collaborated on a work of immense beauty. 

Jackie French’s superlative text in verse, combined with Anne Spudvilas’ divine and deeply moving artistic interpretation, brought tears. 

The longing of the mothers, wives and children is visible in the double spreads that are a salute to all the men that left to fight in wars from WW1 till today and those lucky enough to experience a homecoming. The wars are acknowledged with the date, length, and name of each battle.

The opening image shows a mother pressing her two children to her side against a background of cloud that appears to be smoke. All three have an expression of loneliness and longing. This prepares the reader for an emotional journey symbolic of all that has passed but shows no end.

WW1 Armistice Day - Lights from the carriages of the train on which the Treaty was signed, can be seen through a forest of black trees. WW1 Peace Treaty - Two dogs run towards a returned soldier. WW1 Troops Still Returning - Two hands are joined across a table beside a pile of letters tied with string, a half-finished cup of tea, and three photographs.  

WW2 Victory in Europe Day - A family in the shadowed light of a kerosene lamp re-reads letters sticky with jam. Victory in the Pacific Day - After the reunion, a roundup is being planned.

The Occupation of Japan shows the horror of a mushroom sky as a child sends paper cranes into the air next to two live cranes, their heads lifted in a screech against a burning world.

The Malayan Emergency – A man and a boy lean against a stump in the outback. The man is still a stranger to the boy who sees him for the first time.

Korean War - A letter to a soldier’s wife is written upon a map of the whole of Korea and surrounding areas.

Indonesian Confrontation – A soldier’s body returns home for burial. Vietnam War – A desperate mother, arms outstretched, offers her child to a soldier in a chopper.

1990 to Present Day Gulf Wars Afghanistan – Young girls dream of being educated.
Timor-Leste – A joyous reunion.  Peacekeeping in Kasmir, Cyprus, Cambodia, Somalia, Haiti… The dark shadow of a bird in flight is visible against crumpled tissue paper.

Exquisite in every way and deeply moving, this book reminds us what we can never forget.  Wars will never end, and history will keep on repeating itself. So, we continue to live with the anguish of separation and loss, and the experience of joy at homecomings and reunions.

Title: When the War is Over
Author: Jackie French
Illustrator: Anne Spudvilas
Publisher: Harper Collins, $24.99
Publication Date:18 February 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781460753026
For ages: 8+
Type: Picture Book