cover image War Is Over

War Is Over

David Almond, illus. by David Litchfield. Candlewick, $16.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0986-0

Taut and teeming with emotion, Almond’s historical novel is an affecting portrait of an English boy’s perspective on a seemingly endless, unfathomable war. In 1918, John’s father has been off fighting in France for so long that John hardly remembers him, and his mother works “overtime, double time” in an enormous munitions factory. Bewildered by his teacher’s declaration that “we are all engaged in the fight to defeat the evil German,” John “kept on daring to ask himself, ‘I am just a child. How can I be at war?’ ” This question frames other experiences: he watches townsfolk pummel a pacifist, imagines being transported to the front, and has a dreamlike encounter with a German boy who’s his same age and height and, John senses, is likewise “yearning for the war to end.” The straightforward narrative by Almond (Skellig) juxtaposes moments of violence and beauty: John’s mother explains how to fill a shell with shrapnel and resin, then spreads his bread with homemade rose hip jam. Reinforcing the atmosphere are often haunting black-and-white illustrations created by Litchfield (The Bear and the Piano); one especially effective image shows John watching pigeons overhead morph into shrapnel shells. Ages 9–12. [em](May) [/em]