Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LeFleur

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LeFleur

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LeFleur (InfoSoup)

Released September 13, 2016.

In a country at war, even children are not safe. Sofarende is being bombed, including the town where 12-year-old Mathilde lives. There isn’t enough food, the sirens sound often, and then there is the destruction and people dying. Mathilde does have her best friend Megs who lives only a few doors away. Now the government has started recruiting children into service. It offers families a chance to have enough food and enough money to survive. The children have to pass a test. Mathilde knows that if Megs takes the test, she will be taken into service since Megs is top of their class. Mathilde takes the test as well, realizing that she too can change the way her entire family survives and lives though recognizing that she isn’t as gifted as Megs in school. But this test isn’t like any other they have ever taken, so the results aren’t either.

LeFleur has written a haunting look at war and the way that it impacts families and children. She presents us with a society that is already battered by the conflict and facing serious shortages. Into that angst and fear, she introduces a way forward, sacrificing children to the effort. It is that moment that mirrors so many choices that families must face in war, sending children to safety, sacrifice in order to find hope, becoming refugees. It is a powerful moment that LeFleur allows to stand and lengthen beautifully.

In the latter part of the book, the children’s efforts at war are meticulously written, yet there is a lovely lack of clarity as well. There is hope in what they are doing, a sense that children see the world very differently from adults and that that is important and valid. At its heart is hope for the future, an end to the conflict and an ability to look beyond today. This too is a powerful time, where conversation and humanity could win over war and despair.

This is the first in a series and I look forward to the next installment. The combination of skillful writing and a powerful scenario with a dynamic and unique heroine creates a series that is very special. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Wendy Lamb Books and Edelweiss.


The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna (InfoSoup)

The book begins with a family who enjoys going to the beach together often. But then things change and the war begins. Darkness invades and takes over the landscape, then the children’s father is taken by the war. Their mother hears of people leaving for a safer place, far away. She decides to leave as well. They leave at night, hide in different vehicles along the way. They reach the border but are turned back by a guard. They manage by paying for help to reach the sea, but their journey has not ended. As they continue to travel over dangerous seas and past many borders, the narrator notices that birds too are migrating along with them on their own long journey.

This picture book captures the current refugee crisis through a lens that is very appropriate for children. The impact of war is shown as a dark figure, destroying buildings and wreaking havoc. It envelopes them for awhile, particularly with the death of their father. There is a feeling of a constant state of upheaval and danger, the journey is one with its own dangers but is a way forward away from an even more violent situation. The focus here is on the devastation of war and the turmoil it brings, rather than a specific population. The message is that it could be any of us.

Sanna’s illustrations are so wrenching and evocative. War as a long-fingered destruction that envelopes and changes everything is beautifully shown. The book has a feeling of motion throughout, the long pages leading one on your own journey. The huge guard at the gate, stands horrifyingly large on the page, dwarfing the family. Then alone in the woods, the mother is their safe place and their home yet ever so human as well. The illustrations are artistic, beautiful and speak volumes about the emotions of refugee families.

An important and vital book, this book allows children to understand the plight of refugees in our world and will open hearts. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Flying Eye Books and Edelweiss.