War by Jose Jorge Letria

Cover image for War.

War by Jose Jorge Letria, illustrated by Andre Letria (9781771647267)

This Portuguese picture book offers a deeply surreal but also honest look at the impact of war. Told in a mixture of wordless pages and pages with only a sentence, war is depicted as spiders and snakes that race across the landscape. They take over a bird, who then flies war over the land “like a whispered, swift disease.” The bird then lands at a building where a leader has been waiting, plotting his attack on the land. War is shown as a force that destroys stories, crushes things under heavy boots, pollutes the air, and erases individuality. Planes take to the sky, bombs fall and the rubble of war is created, leaving silence and more spiders waiting for their next move.

This will be a picture book that will have people questioning whether it is for children. While there is no gore and no violence on the page, the results of the violence are shown, including bodies that fill the page with their fallen pattern. Yet we all serve children who have escaped war-torn nations and have survived. For me, that means this is a book for children that may offer them a way to verbalize the impact of war to those of us who have been lucky enough to not experience it.

The book is haunting. From the wall of masks and helmets that the dictator picks from to the spiders and snakes themselves, there is imagery here that makes emotions real and tangible. The burning of books and the ripping down of towns is shown moments before they happen. This is not a depiction of war wrapped in a flag and full of heroism.

Dark, surreal and incredibly real. Appropriate for ages 6-10.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Books.