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Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Treasure Box, written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $23.00 ages 8 and up

"For weeks, they trudged through
mud and rain. They slept at the
side of the road, under hedges,
in ditches, huddling together to
keep warm. As the days went by,
Peter's father became very ill.
He whispered, "You must be
brave, for both of us. Promise me
you will keep our treasure safe." "I
promise," said Peter, ... "

This is a book for everyone who loves and knows the power of words and books. During the war, the library is bombed. The only book not destroyed is the one Peter's father has borrowed to read at home. It is his favorite book.

As soldiers threaten homes and the people who live in them, Peter's father uses an iron box to protect the 'treasure' that tells the story of their people.

"It's rarer than rubies, more splendid than silver, greater than gold,"
 he tells his son.

Forced to flee, and watching their homes burn as they begin their trek, the box is always with them. His father, sick and dying, asks Peter to do his best to protect the book. Peter keeps his promise, leaving his suitcase behind and carrying only the iron box. Knowing he cannot carry it through the mountains they must cross, he buries it under a tree.

Will he ever be able to find it again?

We do not know Peter's homeland; we do know the story of far too many people like him. The book is needed for those who come after, so they may know that shared history. Freya Blackwood's pencil, watercolor and collage artwork is muted and telling - and beautiful. The stunning details and inclusion of words from the works of other Australian authors' war stories add to the poignancy of Ms. Wild's book that considers love, loss and the importance of history.

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