The enemy bombs the library, and Peter’s father saves a beloved book in an iron box just before his people are forced to flee the war in his country.
Hard conditions cause illness, including in Peter’s father. He asks Peter to take care of the book. Peter honors his wish and takes it with him, and as the road gets harder, he even leaves his suitcase to hold onto the book. On reaching the mountains, the iron box becomes too heavy for him to carry, so he buries it under a tree and carries on. Years later, when it’s safe, he returns to dig up the book and place it in the new library to be read by others. Wild’s story is touching and purposefully vague about the country at war, which underscores how many different cultures have been affected by armed conflict. Though avid readers know that books are precious, that this one contains the history of a people uprooted by war makes it more precious, and its existence makes it impossible to erase the culture, as often happens in war. Softly penciled and cut-out paper illustrations by Blackwood have a beautiful, muted feel, and she uses snippets of the texts of children’s books in various languages—Spanish, Slovenian, Hungarian, and Italian among them—as background textures, to striking effect. The characters are white, driving home the truth that not all refugees are poor and brown.
A poignant and accessible story about the importance of the survival of a people’s history as well as of the people themselves. Excellent. (Picture book. 5-8)