This gracefully written poem conveys the extensive amount of suffering that war brings.
A girl with brown skin and black hair who lives in a city enjoys her day, spending the morning with her family, then learning about volcanoes and drawing a bird at school. Then war suddenly erupts: “I can’t say the words that tell you / about the blackened hole / that had been my home. / All I can say is this: / War took everything. / War took everyone.” The child runs, walks in the cold, rides on packed trucks and in a boat that nearly sinks, but the war follows her: “It was underneath my skin…. / It was in the way that people didn’t smile, and turned away.” She finds a school where children are learning about volcanoes and drawing birds, but when she goes inside, the teacher says there is no chair for her. In an unexpected turn of events, the children of the school redraw the smile on the girl’s face and push back the war, one step at a time. Cobb’s muted, deceptively childlike illustrations match the poem’s understatement. An early spread of the gray, smoky chaos that destroys the girl’s world is echoed in a late spread as she huddles alone in an unwelcoming place. Both an afterword by the author and the illustrations suggest that the protagonist may be from Syria or Iraq and sought refuge in the U.K., but the story is, alas, more broadly universal.
An absolutely beautiful story that penetrates the heart and seeds hope when there is little of it. (Picture book. 6-12)