The Day War Came
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
It started as an ordinary day- there were flowers on the window sill, her father sang to her baby brother, her mother made her breakfast, kissed her nose and walked with her to school, School was ordinary too – she learned about volcanoes, how tadpoles turned to frogs and she drew a picture of a bird.
But then, just after lunch war came. The devastation and desperation was complete. The only salvation was to run – through fields, roads,and mountains in the cold and the mud and the rain; riding on trucks, buses, even a leaky boat and eventually up a beach where shoes lay empty in the sand.
But war had come to this nation too – not the bombs-and-bullets type of war but one where hearts and minds are closed to those seeking refuge – until there is one act of kindness that changes both thinking and lives…
It is tragic enough that here in Australia some think it is OK to put desperate children in detention, children who have suffered more than the decision-makers can ever imagine; but to know that Australia is not alone in this as evident by the recent policies of the US administration and that this poem was inspired by UK government refusing sanctuary to 3000 unaccompanied child refugees in 2016 is heart-breaking and head-shaking. How has humanity become so selfish it can’t give succour to a child?
Told through the eyes of the child it not only puts a face to all the children displaced by adult motives but also makes the stories and plight of these children accessible to young readers – readers who might be like the little boy in the story and start a groundswell of change. It is a book that cannot be shared in isolation – it needs a conversation that focuses on the girl’s emotions and feelings; her resilience and determination; and the big question “what if this were you?” (and some of our students may well be able to tell us because it has been them.)
In a world that seems to be driven by economics rather than empathy this is a book that might start to change things, if now now then perhaps for the future. Perhaps it is time for another make-love-not-war generation, despite the current protagonists being the products of the previous one.