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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Little Yellow Bottle, written by Angele Delaunois and illustrated by Christine Delezenne. Second Story Press, 2011. $15.95 ages 9 and up

"They were bombs,
someone said. We heard a
few explosions, then an
eerie silence fell. No birds
At first, we were terrified.
We held our breath.
And then, after a few days,
as all children do,
we forgot a little."

While it may be hard for children to learn about the plight of those in war-torn countries, I think it is also important for them to know what happens there. It builds understanding and empathy for events that are often beyond our borders and so easily ignored. Children are children no matter where they live. They have the same wishes and dreams, and deserve to live a life free of war and its aftermath.

Often, even in those countries where a war is ongoing, children may be unaware of its proximity to them and the effect it can have on their lives:

"We were mostly thinking of the harvest we had to help bring in, the fruit that was ripe enough to pick, the animals we had to tend - and soccer, soccer, soccer!"

Marwa and Ahmad are soccer enthusiasts and spend much of the time they have for play perfecting their game. Ahmad is a class goaler and much admired. Both notice the planes as they pass overhead, and know that bombs have been dropped on their land. Soon, those dangers are forgotten and they go back to their games.

At play one day, Ahmad notices and then picks up a small yellow bottle. It marks the beginning of a new reality for both children. The explosion leaves scars. Marwa's body is pierced by the exploding shrapnel and her recovery is long and painful. Covered from head to toe in bandages, she knows she will heal. For Ahmad, the results are even more devastating. He loses a hand and a leg, and almost his life. Ahmad's dreams of playing soccer are dashed. His will to live in this new reality is tested.  Ahmad's struggle to heal inside and out is long and painful. Then, he meets someone who helps him cope with the changes he must face.

A heartbreaking story to tell but so important to hear. War too often affects those who 'aren't at war with anyone', just as Marwa and Ahmad are not. The reality of the war is critically evident in the artwork created to accompany this very personal story. Collage and textured illustrations provide a grim look at the effects it can have on the children. They also offer a feeling of hopefulness for all who read it.

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