The Day War Came

Authored by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
Published by Walker Books

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A little girl 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. 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.

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, this book should be in every school. However, it will require sensitive handling in classroom settings.