Monday, November 15, 2021

How War Changed Rondo by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv

How War Changed Rondo
written and illustrated by 
Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv
translated from the Ukrainian
Enchanted Lion Books, 2021, 40 pages

Three friends,  Danko, a bright light with a shiny transparent heart, Fabian, a red balloon dog with a knot for a nose, and Zirka, a paper origami bird covered with notes and sketches of his journeys, loved living in Rondo. Rondo was a place with clear air, where residents grew and tended flowers everywhere, and lived in distinctive houses. In other words, Rondo was a pretty great place to live.

Rondo was especially famous for its flowers and there large greenhouse where there was a collection of rare plants and flowers that could sing. Concerts were often held in the greenhouse, and the town anthem, Mozart's Rondo alla Turca, was always played for residents and visitors alike. 

One ordinary day, Danko and Fabian were on their way to meet Zirka, who had just returned from a trip with new stories. But, whispers had begun...war was on its way to Rondo and leaving a path of death and destruction everywhere it went. No one in Rondo knew what war was, but soon, everything there was dark and ugly. War planted black flowers (bombs) and prickly weeds so that no light could shine through, causing Rondo's beautiful flowers to stop singing. 

The three friends resisted war, but Danko, Fabian, and Zirka were all hit by the stones (bullets) that war sent out. How could the three friends ever defeat war, especially now that they were all wounded - Danko's heart had cracks, one of Fabian's legs was pierced by a prickly weed, and the edges of Zirka's wings were burned? When Danko decides to try to provide light to the flowers in the greenhouse, he realizes that war is afraid of light and so he, Fabian, and Zirka rally the other residents of Rondo in an effort to produce a powerful enough light to finally defeat war. 

War is finally defeated, and Rondo is repaired and rebuilt. The flowers in the greenhouse begin to sing again, but the poppies that had grown all around town no longer grew in different colors. Now, they only grow in one color - red.
The interesting thing about How the War Changed Rondo is that war itself isn't the focus, but rather how it impacts the lives of Rondo and its residents during and after the fighting is over. Here we see the lasting effects of injuries received in the war on Rondo. Because, even though Rondo is repaired, its residents of are forever changed. Now, they know what it is like when their beloved flowers stop singing, they will  have to live with sad memories of loved lost friends and relatives, as well as with the physical wounds that were inflicted on them by war, including Danko with his cracked heart, Fabian with his injured leg, and Zirka with his singed wings.  

The thing about war and children, like the residents of Rondo, is that they don't usually know or understand what war is, where it comes from or how it starts, but they do know the fear and destruction it brings with it. And that is something that will never leave them. In the end, readers might be left scratching their heads and wondering why would anyone want to have war. I'm adult and I still wonder that. 

Mixed-media illustrations in this picture book for older readers harmonize brilliantly with the text, going from pale green and a golden yellow to darkness followed by that same pale green with building tinged in a sooty black - another physical manifestation of the lasting impact of war. Interestingly enough, there are only two illustrations where a human arm is seen, first dropping bombs, later retreating, yet none of Rondo's citizens are human. It really brings out the point that only humans start wars. 

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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