Wednesday, October 13, 2021

War by José Jorge Letria, illustrated by André Letria, translated from the Portuguese by Elisa Amado

War is a thoughtful, honest though grim look at the common factors all wars share, from its first glimmerings to its end and beyond. 

War written by José Jorge Letria,
illustrated by André Letria, 
translated from the Portuguese by Elisa Amado
Greystone Kids, 2021, 64 pages

Beginning with black endpapers that lighten only slightly on the first two-page spread, readers will begin to realize that the idea of war begins in darkness by those who would capitalize on our fears, symbolized here by snakes, spiders, and other crawling insects creeping and slithering through a landscape of leafless trees. These fears are then picked up by a large black hawk who carries them to one who had a wish for war. 

And he who wishes for war, motivated by hate, ambition, and spite, internalizes those fears, then uses them to infect the people over whom he rules. Soon, as "war saddens, crushes, and silences," books are burned, factories are built for the war effort, and "war begets shadowy, iron children" who can easily be indoctrinated into becoming an army of obedient soldiers.

But, in the end, all wars leave behind nothing but silent destruction after all the bullets are shot, all the bombs are dropped, and most of the people are killed. But don't be fooled, war isn't over, just turn the page to another almost black wordless two-page spread that carries the shadows of people's fears, those same snakes, spider, and other crawling insects just waiting...for another person wishing for war and filled with hate, ambition, and spite.

Readers will find a powerful indictment of war in what appears to be a simply written, simply illustrated book that is anything but simple. The images are done in a somber palette of war-like browns, blacks, grays, and greens, and printed on heavy paper. There are 14 wordless double-page spreads, and 17 double-page spreads that contains one single sentence, which means that in only 17 sentences, all the horrors of war are emotionally  conveyed. Interestingly, though this book clearly is not about one particular war, there is much to it to compare with World War II. 

A thought-provoking, sober picture book for older readers, War will likely generate many conversations and questions from thoughtful readers when used in a class, library or home school setting. 

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was purchased for my personal library

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That's fascinating!

    Alex, any chance you could point me toward some WWI books for middle graders? The ones I've read or have been able to find are War Horse, Grace Banker And Her Hello Girls Answer the Call, The Poppy Lady, Crossing Stones, My Brother's Shadow, Sergeant Stubby and a few non-fiction books. There seems to be a dearth of books on WWI. I am writing one but am compiling a recommended list for the back matter.