Book Review: The Day War Came

the day war came

The Day War Came

Written by Nicola Davies

Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

32 pages

Published by Candlewick Press

Publication date: 4th September 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

A moving, poetic narrative and child-friendly illustrations follow the heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful journey of a little girl who is forced to become a refugee.

Imagine if, on an ordinary day, after a morning of studying tadpoles and drawing birds at school, war came to your town and turned it to rubble. Imagine if you lost everything and everyone, and you had to make a dangerous journey all alone. Imagine that there was no welcome at the end, and no room for you to even take a seat at school. And then a child, just like you, gave you something ordinary but so very, very precious. In lyrical, deeply affecting language, Nicola Davies’s text combines with Rebecca Cobb’s expressive illustrations to evoke the experience of a child who sees war take away all that she knows.

The day war came there were flowers on the window sill and my dad sang my bay brother back to sleep.

My mother made my breakfast, kissed my nose and walked with me to school.

At first, just like a spattering of hail, a voice of thunder…

then all smoke and fire and noise that I didn’t understand.

This book should be in every classroom! It does such a good job of introducing children to issues they may be hearing about in the media and humanise the individuals who are suffering from the effects of war, rather than lump them all together under the label of ‘the refugee crisis’. It is based on a poem, originally written by the author in response to hearing of refugee children being turned away from schools because there were no seats for them in the already-full classrooms.

the day war came original chair
The original chair painted by Jackie Morris in response to the poem, sparking a movement whereby anyone could post a picture of an empty chair to raise awareness of the children being turned away from school because of a lack of space.

People don’t ask for war to come to their doorstep and destroy the places and people they love. People don’t ask to be forced to flee from their home and history and make a perilous journey with an uncertain welcome at the end. It shouldn’t need to be said or explicitly taught, but it is important for our children to realise (and for us adults to remember) that refugees are first and foremost individuals just like us, with the same wants and needs and we should be doing everything we can to help.
Beautiful illustrations, sparse but effective language and an essential message make this a book that should be used in every classroom to teach our children empathy and understanding.

All I can say is this:

war took everything,

war took everyone.

I was ragged, bloody, all alone.

What I liked: The important message and how well it was conveyed, the illustrations which manage to convey the wordless horror of war but in such a way that it won’t be scary for young children. I liked how the book drew parallels between children in a war-free country and those in a war-torn country – really, children everywhere need and want the same or similar things and they should all have that opportunity.

Even better if: It would be even better if books like this weren’t a necessity because people around the world did not have to suffer like this because of conflict. But the book itself is perfect.

How you could use it in your classroom: This could be read and shared with children of any age, from early years to upper primary or even secondary. This could be used as a discussion starter or to add to an existing discussion about war and peace, refugees and asylum and could be sued to accompany news stories that are often presenting polarised views.

(Thank you to my lovely library for ordering in a copy for me!)

While you’re here, why not check out my reviews of some the picture books you could use for teaching empathy such as Shelter, Violet, A Different Pond, A Fish in Foreign Waters, Home Sweet Home, Robin and the White Rabbit, Stardust, Ten Cents a Pound and The Tiny Tale of Little Pea?

Or, have a look at some other stories featuring refugees and children’s experience of war: Do you Speak Chocolate? , Running from the Sky and Wolf Children

Find me on Twitter , Goodreads or Instagram

Thanks for reading!


16 Comments Add yours

  1. I’ve just read this and agree on how sad it is that such a book is necessary. I wept as I read it. Have you read The Boy at the Back of the Class? It’s written through the eyes of a 9 year old and starts with an empty chair at the back of their classroom, until a young Refugee arrives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard of it but haven’t yet got a hold of a copy – will need to read it soon! I also really liked ‘Do you speak chocolate?’


      1. Not heard of that one. I’ll have to look it up 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My local library had a copy so it might be worth trying. Hope you like it! (One annoying thing in it, from a teacher perspective, is that the teacher ‘picks on’ the main character by making her read aloud when she is dyslexic – urgh!) The friendship between the two girls is lovely though!


  2. I loved this picture book too! It’s so powerful to describe war but in a way that is age appropriate. The chair sharing is perfect for an uplifting message about how each of us can help in situations that seem and feel dire and without hope.


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