January 7, 2019
Brief insights into war from a child's point of view
This is a beautiful but simple children's book. I wonder if we adults are tempted to withhold the book from younger kids, not because of the book itself but because of what it's about. The poetic language and the gentle watercolors help distance the subject matter from the reader. For me, the page most questionable for children reads, "You [my son] know a bomb crater can be made into a swimming hole. You have learned dark blood is better news than bright." When your curious child asks you, "Why is dark blood better than bright?" If you can imagine a good answer for their age, then I believe the two of you will have a positive reading experience. The author does a wonderful job of focusing adult attention on what was lost, acknowledging little kids won't remember the idyllic past, but seeing how kids can find good and play even in a bomb crater. The book ends with a lie - the author lies to his son that he'll be safe at sea. "These are only words. A father's tricks. It slays your father, your faith in him." But the author's gaze on the good which kids find or do in war reveals a deeper faith. I think a kid would need to be age 9 or more to begin to comprehend such layers of lying and irony. But I believe most younger readers would not be harmed by this book.