The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
Published by Walker Book, £10 (£1 from each copy sold donated to Help Refugees)
Recommended Key Stages: 1 or 2
Year Group: 3+
In 2016, our own government refused to allow 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees to enter the UK. Around the same time, Nicola Davies heard a story about a refugee child being refused entry to a school because there wasn’t a chair for her to sit on. Inspired by these heart-breaking events, The Day War Came was born.
Originally published in The Guardian, in response to the government’s drastic decision to refuse lone refugee children a safe haven in the UK, The Day War Came is a poignant story that entangles the emotions of every reader. Touchingly illustrated with Cobb’s innocent, childlike drawings, it tells the tragic tale of a young girl who is thrust into a world of war. The juxtapositioning of calm and chaos harshly strikes a sensitive chord amongst readers as we follow the girl’s journey, from her seemingly normal school day into the harrowing reality of a war-torn country and her plight to escape.
So emotive in its nature, with a potent message about the power of kindness and hope, the poem ignites a burning desire to help refugees in crisis. Mirroring this sentiment, a real-life campaign was launched shortly after the poem was published. People posted images of empty chairs in droves, as symbols of solidarity with those who children who had lost everything. Artists, illustrators, authors and the general public responded to The Guardian’s publication of Nicola Davies’ poem by painting, drawing and sketching an empty chair and sharing it on social media with the accompanying hashtag #3000chairs.
Published in association with Help Refugees, it is a powerful tool for opening up discussions about the ongoing refugee crisis to younger readers.
Not only is The Day War Came a tender, heart wrenching poetic narrative in its own right, the real-life story and subsequent campaign behind Nicola Davies’ incredible book is equally touching and inspiring. Simultaneously stirring, emotional and uplifting, this beautifully illustrated book undoubtedly helps to shed light on the hard-hitting themes of fear, safety, war and change.
There is so much potential to explore the book through Literacy (or PSHE), tackling this topic in a creative, delicate, investigative manner. From persuasive letters, diary entries, drama and art, to newspaper articles, campaign posters, acts of kindness and pledges, the opportunities for lessons that bring this book to life are endless. I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who could easily write a whole unit of work around this beloved book.
I stumbled upon this video, created by Hereford College of Arts and Opensky Productions, which I absolutely love. It could definitely be used to provoke further discussions, or to inspire dramatization of the story. I might even ask the children to close their eyes and simply listen to the words and sounds to really place themselves in the character’s shoes. What can you hear? What can you see? How do you feel? What would you do? Where would you go? I’d imagine the discussions would be rich and powerful.
Whilst researching this post, I also found out that there’s an upcoming launch of The Day War Came in London, to be hosted on Monday 3rd September 2018 from 6.30pm – 8pm. You can hear Nicola Davies and Illustrator Rebecca Cobb as they discuss the events that inspired them and their work for the charity Help Refugees. A selection of artwork, which was created for the #3000chairs campaign by some of the country’s most notable children’s illustrators, will also be displayed at this unique event. This amazing literary event is free, although I’d recommend donating £5 in order to receive an illustration to take home. I cannot think of anything more inspiring to get your creative teaching juices flowing.
And as if that’s not enough to get you raring to read this brilliant book in the classroom, Walk Books have conveniently produced their own classroom ideas for The Day War Came, including discussion prompts around the book’s themes and illustrations.
My Top Tip! Tying this in with National Refugee Week (taking place from 17 – 23 June 2019) would allow children to immerse themselves in the theme of ‘Different Pasts, Shared Future’, shedding a light and sharing their voice on this important issue. National Refugee Week is the UK’s largest festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. I definitely recommend checking out the Refugee Week Educational Resources and the Help Refugees Projects. Happy Reading!
Have you read this book or have you used it in your classroom? Let us know in the comments section below or find me on twitter. I’d love to hear from you!