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a book isn’t just for christmas




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-  the night before armistice
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- a book isn’t just for christmas

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If you have a favourite book which you think is worth recommending to others because it deals with war and peace issues imaginatively and creatively let us know. You can of course send us a copy of the book or a donation to purchase it for review.


Peace Weavers
by Julia Jarman, Andersen Press 2004
Julia Jarman’s third novel for young adults could scarcely be more topical. It’s set on a US Air Force base in East Anglia at the time of the build-up to the invasion of Iraq. 16-year-old Hilde and her brother have been sent there to stay with their American father, whom they hardly know. Their mother is away protesting against the war. Rebellious Hilde joins a local archaeological dig – and finds a strange link with 6th century Maethilde, a ‘peace weaver’ between two long-ago communities. This direct, highly readable tale about the problems of young people trying to make sense of the world is also fruitfully debate-provoking.

The Fire Eaters
by David Almond, Hodder Children’s Books 2003
You probably know this award-winning book (and there is also an audio-tape) already, but if you don’t – well, get a copy now. Bobby Burns looks back to his childhood by the sea, especially two months in the autumn of 1962 and the Cuba crisis. This beautiful and moving story is about many things, but especially the way that war affects (and infiltrates) human lives. It also explores fear: the toughening kinds that are part of a full life, and the cruel kinds that people create for each other. Here’s Bobby imagining the effects of nuclear war: ‘Maybe there’d be nothing, no world at all, just a charred and blasted ball of poisoned earth and poisoned air and poisoned seas, spinning through the darkness and the emptiness of space. All of history gone. All the stories gone. No me, no you, no anyone.’ Like other great books, it speaks to people of all ages in language both direct and poetic.

Private Peaceful
by Michael Morpurgo (Children’s Laureate 2003-2005), Collins 2003
Michael Morpurgo’s 100th book is a fine one. Tough stuff, too: set in the First World War, teenage enlister Tommo Peaceful relives his life in peace and war, up to his brother’s death. Another admirable book that tells the truth about war and the damage it does to both living and dead. Poignant, unsentimental, thought-provoking, it also acknowledges the injustice done to British soldiers executed for desertion and ‘cowardice’.

by Marcus Sedgwick, Hodder Children’s Books 2003
A true story of conscientious objectors in the First World War. Clear and fact-filled, it encourages readers to think about their own attitudes to war.

A Little Piece of Ground
by Elizabeth Laird, Macmillan Children’s Books 2003
A strong novel about teenage Palestinian boys living under Israeli military occupation. Michael Morpurgo says: ‘In this fine and daring book we are taken into Ramallah, we live there, no longer mere observers, but involved as we should be’. A 14-year old Jewish reader says ‘By reading books like this, and acknowledging other points of view, it will be easier for both sides to understand each other’.

Web of Lies
by Beverley Naidoo, Puffin Books 2004
People gripped by her book ‘The Other Side of Truth’ will want to read this powerful sequel. Two young Nigerian teenagers are in London waiting to hear if their father’s plea for asylum will be granted. Meanwhile, they face problems in and out of school – and come close to tragedy. A convincing insight into the life of political refugees.

Hana’s Suitcase
by Karen Levine, Evans 2003
The true story of Hana, whose battered suitcase arrived in the Tokyo Holocaust Centre’s small museum in 2000. Entwining past and present, this simply-told tale of ‘the brutality of the past and hope for the future’ is a gentle introduction to both.

The Orphans of Normandy
edited by Nancy Amis, Pocket Books 2004
20 expressive drawings by orphan girls aged 11-14, a record of their experiences in 1944. Caught between German occupiers and Allied invaders, the girls set out on a 150-mile walk south to safety. Another (and vivid) instance of how war disrupts and damages the lives of people in its path.

The Conquerors
by David McKee, Andersen Press 2004
In text and colourful pictures, this tells the story of how a small country resisted an empire-builder by winning over invading soldiers with convivial and infectious song and dance. ‘A wise and philosophical attack on global might. Ideal for family discussion on bullying, war and integration,’ say the publishers. (It’s fun, too.)

What Does Peace Feel Like?
by Vladimir Radunsky, Simon & Schuster 2004
A delightful 19-page picture book. The title’s question is answered by a group of children aged 8-10 from around the world. There’s also a list of words for ‘peace’ in nearly 190 different languages. Did you know that Greenlandic for ‘peace’ is ‘eqqisaqatigiineq’?

Sales of books for children and ‘young adults’ have been soaring, and the young readers’ sections of public libraries are busy. Many of the books begged, bought or borrowed deal with war and violence in thoughtful and imaginative ways not often enough found in adult fiction. All the books named here can set young people thinking about routes to peace. None costs more than £11, most cost less, and nearly all can be bought from Amazon (via the PPU website of course, so that we benefit too) at competitive prices below the RRP.




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