Talking to children about war is not easy, but an occasion like Remembrance Day (November 11) makes it possible to broach the difficult subject with the help of some exceptional books that have been written for children about war. Our Outreach Coordinator, Leena Desai, names a few.
JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith’s Governor General’s Literary Award-winning picture book Sidewalk Flowers is, ostensibly, about nothing. This is a wordless picture book that is open to interpretation. In the book, a little girl in a red hoodie takes a walk with her father across crowded city streets and the park. The father is distracted but the girl is acutely aware of the beauty around her. At the start of the book only the girl is in colour while everything is black and white; but as the girl starts plucking flowers from the sidewalk and placing them as a memorial for a dead bird, a gift for a man sleeping on a bench and so on, the book gradually takes on beautiful vivid colours. Children may interpret this book in their own unique way, but perhaps one of the reasons this book is a Remembrance Day favorite is because it serves as a talking point about the importance of paying tribute to what’s around us and being thankful for the peace and beauty we have. Grades Preschool-2
Award-winning author Gordon Korman uses his signature wit and introspective gaze to talk about war through the story of a young boy named Trevor. As the title of the book suggests, Trevor has grown up on war stories, particularly those of his beloved great-grandfather Jacob, a true-blue, bona fide war hero, who liberated a French village during the war and received a hero’s welcome when he returned home. Trevor decides to retrace Jacob’s journey, not just by travelling back to France, but also by training for invasion. In doing so, Trevor learns some unexpected truths and begins to wonder whether there’s more to the story about his great-grandfather’s heroism than what he has been told all these years. Grades 3-6
The war in the titular Snow White Motel serves as a metaphor for the real Vietnam War against the backdrop of which this book is set. Several short stories follow different characters, each grappling with their own inner demons, seemingly impossible quests and uncomfortable truths. Rex is vacationing with his family when a thoughtless act launches him on an all-out war with an older teenager; Joseph and Danny are on a warpath to right an old wrong, no matter the consequences; and a boy struggles to fend off a bully, but is surprised when he learns why the bully won’t leave him alone. Insightful and heartfelt, these are engaging stories that capture people fighting for what they believe in by one of Canada’s most celebrated authors. Grades 4-7