Mam working at the munitions factory,
Dad away, fighting overseas,
the Great War goes on and on.
John writes to Buckingham Palace in 1918, asking when the terrible war will be over, but neither King nor teachers nor mothers can answer the boy’s question.
As his class walks to tour the gigantic weapons factory, they encounter a man who refused to fight, a conscientious objector against war who knows that German and British children are more alike than different.
After the police beat the man and take him away for speaking unpatriotic thoughts in public, one photo of a German boy is left behind.
Soon the boy Jan appears in John’s dreams, and though they speak different languages, their wish for peace is the same. “I am just a child. How can I be at war?” (pg 20)
Among the extensive black and white illustrations, the reader’s mind can imagine the red of homemade rosehip jam and of the tiny scars on Mam’s cheeks left by faulty shrapnel in the factory and of sunsets preceding John’s dreams of children spreading seeds of peace instead of hate.
Published in the UK in 2018 to mark the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I, this child’s eye view of war is a May 2020 US release.
Can we love our country and hate war?