#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Books Early Readers Features Genre International It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Portrayal of War in Picturebooks from Australia and Portugal

"War was never able to tell stories." - War, José Jorge Letria and André Letria.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date).


For 2022, our reading theme is #DecolonizeBookshelves2022. Essentially, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

When The War Is Over (Book Depository)

Written by Jackie French Illustrated by Anne Spudvilas
Published by HarperCollins AU (2019)
ISBN:146075302X (ISBN13: 9781460753026) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I bought this picturebook when I visited Sydney as part of a university trip back in 2019. I pulled it up from my bookshelves as the world seemed to have gone mad with war (either overt or covert) insidiously creeping into people’s lives.

Written in lyrical text, each page captures a specific period in history from the WWI Armistice in 1918 to the Indonesian confrontation from 1963-1966:

to present-day peacekeeping efforts in Kasmir, Cyprus, Cambodia, Somalia, Haiti.

Each verse set in various countries ravaged by war depicts the aftermath brought about by conflict: the wisps of hope flown into the air, or what it means to get to know the soldier who came back and trying to be the father he used to be.

The most poignant image for me is the one below with its dynamism, the tension in the air, the inevitability of death coming, and the outstretched arms leading to God-knows-where.

Jackie French and Anne Spudvilas created an unforgettable book about war throughout history that did not focus so much on the specifics of each international conflict – in fact, there is no afterword providing detailed explanation about each war depicted here, which may have been intentional. The book creators highlighted instead the families torn apart, the bittersweet joy of reunion, the moments lost and stolen because of wars that have never made any sense.

War (Amazon | Book Depository)

Author José Jorge Letria Illustrator André Letria Translated by Elisa Amado
Published by Greystone Kids (2021, first published 2018) Original Title: A Guerra ISBN: 9781771647267
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I learned about the father-and-son Portuguese book creators while I was a research fellow at the International Youth Library in Munich. When A Guerra was translated into English, I immediately got myself a copy.

The image above, while deceptively simple with just a few brushstrokes and lines, felt sinister for me: the evil creeping in the landscape, enveloping the land with its darkness and slime and skittering legs.

The text is sparse, few and far between – but powerful and direct – the darkness magnified and embodied with this faceless leader who is a representation of all tyrants and self-entitled megalomaniacs who feed on fear, discord, and undeserved adulation – pretty much an accurate description of the presumptive President of the Philippines.

War is cruel on books. Its leaders want people ignorant, dreamless, and reading only the propaganda that they provide to keep them obedient, unquestioning, and servile.

This book offers no redemption in the end – because war offers none. Just the silence of a country whose history has been erased; a country, disappeared.

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 48 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

5 comments on “[Monday Reading] Portrayal of War in Picturebooks from Australia and Portugal

  1. lindabaie

    Both look poignant, Myra. Amazingly, my library does have “War”, but not the other. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Both of these books look intense Myra. I finished reading your words here on When the War is Over by Jackie French and went in search of a copy. Neither of my libraries has it so I even went in search of where I could find one to buy. I’m looking forward to owning my own copy. The second title is available at one of my libraries.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This looks like a great book, and certainly a timely one. I was especially struck by the illustration of all the discarded books.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf

    Myra, as always, you find such incredible picture books and write such powerful reviews of them! Both of these look so beautiful and relevant—I just checked out War at my local library, and I made note of When the War Is Over as well. Thank you as always for spotlighting such meaningful stories in such an impactful way!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: [Monday Reading – My 2022 in Books] Favourite Fiction and Poetry Books Read in 2022 – Gathering Books

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