War, Peace and Refugees

Refugee Boy
by Benjamin Zephaniah
reviewed by Catherine Randle.
Alem (not Al or Alan) is Ethiopian and Eritrean. Both countries go to war and he isn’t safe in either place. So his father leaves fourteen-year-old Alem alone in Britain and we travel with him
through the English immigration system. Benjamin Zephaniah cleverly uses everyday British life to show us that, in war, we can’t take education, food or shelter for granted. Alem finds it hard
to make friends. At high school he meets Robert who seems English but really is a son of an immigrant. Alem discovers so is half his class.
In this story, England seems a strange exotic place, and you learn how it feels to be a stranger living here. The book doesn’t preach – it takes you with Alem who is an ordinary hero in extra ordinary circumstances. It also shows you what teenagers can do when they’ve got a
worthwhile goal to work for.
This book is a good step up from a quick read and has a lot of surprises to keep an impatient reader interested. It won the Carnegie Medal and is a very satisfying story.
Age Range 10+
(reviewed by Catherine Randle)
Buy from Amazon

Petar’s Song
by Pratima Mitchell, illustrated by Caroline Birch
(Frances Lincoln)
Petar loved to play his violin. He played for all the village celebrations and even when he was bringing the cows back from the fields. Then war breaks out and shatters his previously happy life. While his father stays to fight, the rest of the family flee to another country. Petar takes his violin with him but, even when they reach safety, he is too sad to play. Then, when Christmas comes, a new song comes into his mind – a song of peace – and he begins to play again. This picture book will appeal to older children too.
Buy from Amazon

Remembrance Day
by Jane Bingham and Ruth Nason
Starting with an explanation of what ‘remembrance’ means, this book goes on to look at the First World War, Armistice Day and the significance of poppies. It talks briefly about the Second World War and the fact that many smaller wars (unnamed) still happen today, before looking at today’s ceremonies. However, the clear, easy to read text doesn’t just provide information. It also asks questions that encourage children to think about the accompanying photographs and the meaning of Remembrance Day. For example, a photo of soldiers poised for battle in the trenches is accompanied the question “What do you think it was like for them?”
This book is a good resource for talking about Remembrance Day with a group or class where the questions could trigger interesting discussions.
Suitable for KS1, KS2 and older children with special needs.
Buy from Amazon

The Conquerors
by David McKee
The army of a large country invades smaller ones. “It’s for their own good. So they can be like us.” is the raison d’etre of their leader. Soon there is just one very small country left unconquered so in marches the General with his army. The inhabitants, instead of fighting,
welcome the invaders and invite the soldiers into their homes. This fraternisation makes the General furious and he orders fresh troops. The same thing happens with unexpected results for the General and his big country. So, who really are the conquerors? – certainly not the General, despite what he thinks.
McKee’s almost child-like, crayoned in illustrations tell a good deal more. This picture book is a perfectly understated demonstration of the power of pacifism.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
Buy from Amazon

Peace Weavers
by Julia Jarman
(Andersen Press)
Set in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, this story weaves together the story of Hilde, the daughter of a peace-campaigning mother, and Mathilde, a sixth-century woman who wove peace between different tribes. At the beginning of the book, a furious Hilde is sent to live on USAF base with her American father but, when a stolen brooch links her life with Mathilde’s,
she gradually discovers that some of her preconceptions were wrong and that peace weaving really can make a difference. A timely novel for older readers.
Buy from Amazon

The Colour of Home
by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Karin Littlewood
(Frances Lincoln)
Despite the best efforts of his teacher and classmates, Hassan, recently arrived from Somalia, finds his first day at school overwhelmingly alien. When his teacher gives him paints and paper, Hassan makes a picture glowing with the colours of his family home. Then the picture takes on other colours and features – those of destruction and death.
The following day, with the help of an interpreter, Hassan uses his picture to tell his teacher of the events leading up to his arrival in the UK, of his sadness at the loss of his beloved cat, his uncle Ahmed, the family home and his belongings. From then on Hassan begins to see some brightness in his new home.
Sadly, as I know from personal experience, this story this is an all too familiar reality for a good many children in our schools today . Perhaps sharing this book with a class may help to bring a measure of understanding to reader and listeners alike.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
Buy from Amazon

Lines in the Sand: New Writing on War and Peace
edited by Mary Hoffman and Rhiannon Lassiter
(Frances Lincoln)
This anthology of poetry and prose emphasises the effects on individual people: civilian and soldier, enemy and ally. It looks at the futility and destruction of war, the humanity of those caught up in it and the possibilities for peace. Containing more than 150 poems, stories and pictures, the book covers many conflicts including Iraq, both World Wars, the Falklands,
Nigeria, Kosovo, the Spanish Civil War, Croatia and Cyprus. This thought provoking collection is worthy of a place on any bookshelf.
Buy Lines in the Sand from Amazon

Parvana’s Journey
by Deborah Ellis
(Oxford University Press)
Inspired by the accounts of real refugees, this book provides a child’s eye view of the impact of war and the desolation it causes. When Parvana’s father dies, she is left alone in war-torn Afghanistan trying to find her mother and sisters. As she travels, she meets up with other solitary children – a starving, orphaned baby, a hostile boy and a girl who darts in and out of minefields feeding on the dead animals and supplies she finds there. Together they reach the relative safety of a refugee camp where Parvana finally finds her mother. This book is the sequel to The Breadwinner,  but it does not matter if you haven’t read the previous book.
Ages 10 upwards
Buy from Amazon

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit
by Judith Kerr
It’s 1933. Nine year old Anna is happy at home in Germany, enjoying school and playing with friends. But Anna is Jewish and her father opposes Hitler. When he suddenly disappears, Anna and her brother, Max, have to leave their toys behind and flee to Switzerland with their mother. Eventually their father meets them there and they move on to France and then to England.
Vividly written and full of details children love, this book provides an insight into the confusion and disruption experienced by refugees and asylum seekers.
Buy from Amazon