Through a child's eyes

"Child Sense" by Zilverbat on Flickr.  Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic
"The story of the Giants"  Copyright Shaun Tan.
"They came by water"  Copyright Shaun Tan.
By Greg Hom
Aug 15, 2013

I still read children’s books.  I read lots of other stuff, too- histories, novels, the news that I usually comment on for this blog.  My reading of children’s books is not (completely) an escape from the normal adult responsibilities in my life.  There is plenty of content in children’s titles that can make us think about serious issues in our world.

The two books I want to write about today aren’t from the Middle East- the normal topic of these blog posts- or specifically about it, but they do deal with the issue of militarism and the effects it has on subjugated peoples.

These aren’t brand new books, but one of them is new to me (The Rabbits, 2011- part of the larger book Lost & Found) and one I returned to recently (The Arrival, 2006).  Both are drawn by Shaun Tan whose work truly grabs the viewer.  The Rabbits actually has text from a different contributor John Marsden.

The Arrival is actually a book without words.  The story follows an immigrant to a new land where he doesn’t speak the language or know the customs of his new home, but finds help from fellow people who show him warmth and solidarity.  What I found so haunting about the book are the images of warfare that make the main character have to choose a new home.  It’s unclear who the attacking armies are, but our main character becomes a refugee due to this violence.  My own view of history made me think of U.S. imperial wars that displace people around the world, including bringing them into the U.S.  Of course, the violence shown in the book could also be a civil war that has other geopolitical implications like what is happening in Syria right now. 

The Rabbits is a much more straightforward tale of European colonization of Australia, though Marsden notes in an afterword that he first learned about issues of settler colonialism by reading about Native Americans.  The book ends without the resolution of one group destroying the other.  The future is not (literally for the book) written, and perhaps there are ways to end the violence, share resources, enact reparations for the native people.   As a new round of negotiations (should they really be called that?) begins between Israelis and Palestinians, this story can remind us to be grounded in the history of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and Palestinians’ right to resistance.

These books can be shared with people of many ages, and start conversations about human dignity that are sorely needed in our lives.  I hope you enjoy them. 

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Greg has written book reviews for Left Turn Magazine, and volunteered with Prison Radio.

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