The media is saturated with images and stories about violence and war, very little of which raises any doubts whether war is a good thing. War may sometimes be necessary, unavoidable, but we should never doubt, as my late father in law, who opposed war in the 1930s but who then fought in World War 2, told me, that it is an abomination.
My friend here Laurie told me today of sitting last week in a doctor’s reception area with an elderly Iraqi mother and her daughter. In casual conversation, the mother revealed that in Iraq she had had 20 male relatives: father, husband, brothers, nephews, sons. 20 male relatives in all and now everyone of them was dead: killed by Saddam Hussein, the Americans, the terrorists or just caught in the cross fire. None of them had had any interest in politics or involvement in anything violent.
This is the reality of war. The bystanders get killed.
So we do need books that educate children on the other side of the picture. That war is not whizz bang video games, is not always good versus bad. But is human beings doing awful things to each other and mourning the dead that war creates.
Michael Morpurgo (1943-present) writes books for children that show this side of war very effectively. I have just read War Horse, an account of a horse that gets drafted into World War One, and its experiences in that appalling slaughter house. If you want your teenage children to get a bit of balance in their take on war, this might be a good start. I won’t give much more away about its plot, except to say that I found it gripping and not simplistic about the nature of that piece of history. Thanks to my friend Chrissie for bringing him to my attention.
And to the Iraqi family mentioned above: I am so very sorry. We mourn your losses too.
See the reference below for more on Michael, whose book has been made into a very successful play and is now a movie by Steven Spielberg as well as a successful stage play:
This is Michael: