10 timely books for children to help talk about war and unity
1. A Tale of Two Dragons by Geraldine McCaughrean and Peter Malone (3+) is a beautiful and lyrical picture book about two kingdoms and the dragons they involve in their conflict. It’s a gentle introduction to the themes of war and division, with a beautiful fairytale feel, and a powerful and timely message of cooperation and sharing.
. The Little War Cat by Hiba Noor Khan and Laura Chamberlain (3+) is a moving picture book inspired by the true story of a cat, lost and frightened in the Aleppo war. It is a compassionate and accessible introduction to the concept of war, with themes of bravery and finding hope in kindness during difficult times.
3. Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles: A story about war and peace by Steve Anthony (6+) is a vibrant and thought-provoking picture book about a war between lizards and rectangles. It’s a playful yet sensitive way to start conversations about conflict and how to overcome it.
4. Politics for Beginners by Louie Stowell, Alex Frith, Rosie Hore and Kellan Stover (8+) is a practical guide to politics. Although not specifically about war, it is an excellent reference book to help young readers understand some of the political language they may hear on the news during times of conflict. An excellent resource to better understand different types of government and ideologies, and to inform and stimulate discussions about how politics can lead to conflict.
5. Queen of Freedom: Defending Jamaica (True Adventures) by Catherine Johnson (8/9+) is the true story of Queen Nanny and the Maroons, and their fight against British colonialism, for freedom. A gripping and accessible book that explores an important period of Jamaican and British history, and could lead to discussions of how some conflicts might be justified, even necessary, to make the world a better place.
6. The Unworry Book by Alice James and Stephen Moncrieff (9+) is a written book designed to calm and help children understand and manage their worries. Although not about conflict, it could be a useful tool to help children who are worried about war news. It includes activities such as creating a worry box, creating a mood map, and mindfulness activities such as coloring and mazes.
7. The Thief Who Sang Storms by Sophie Anderson (9+) is a magical adventure about a young feathered girl who dreams of uniting her household. Linnet, 12, lives on a floating island in the shape of a broken heart. Humans live on one side and birds live on the other. When Linnet’s father is captured, Linnet embarks on a daring mission to rescue him and bring the two sides of his island together. Explores themes of conflict, division, kindness and unity in an imaginative fantasy setting.
8. Boy, Everywhere by AMDassu (9+) is a contemporary novel that follows 13-year-old Sami as he flees his home in war-torn Syria with his family, leaving a comfortable life in Damascus to embark on a a harrowing journey in search of safety. It is a timely and honest account of the refugee experience, gripping and emotional, and written with empathy and compassion. An important book, which has the power to open the eyes and hearts of readers to the plight of refugees.
9. Binti Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor (13/14+) is a sci-fi trilogy about sixteen-year-old Binti who gets caught up in a war between the Jellyfish and the Khoush. Among my teenage eldest’s favorite books, Binti is a thrilling story about the themes of bravery and resilience in times of conflict, that things are not always what they seem, and the importance communication.
10. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (13/14+) is set in an alternate 1950s in which Britain is dominated by the ruthlessly oppressive homeland. When his best friend Hector is taken away, young Standish Treadwell realizes that it’s up to him, his grandfather and a small band of rebels to take on the Fatherland. The story is powerful, emotional, empowering and heartbreaking, with themes of bravery, sacrifice and rebellion.
Sophie’s first two books, The House with Chicken Legs and The Girl Who Speaks Bear, have been nominated for several prestigious awards. She grew up with stories in the blood of her mother, who is a writer, and her Prussian grandmother, whose own storytelling inspires Sophie’s novels.