Friday, 22 April 2011

No! by David McPhail

7th April 2011, Frances Lincoln
Hard back, review copy

Summary from Frances Lincoln 
No. No? No!
A little boy sets out to deliver a letter, witnessing acts of war on the way. But when he encounters a bully by the post-box, he decides that enough is enough.
Almost wordless, but speaking volumes, No! dramatises conflict and its alternatives in a language that is accessible to everyone, young or old: beautiful paintings, executed with profound feeling and an artist's vision and wisdom.
No! is the author's expression of hope that the playgrounds of the world, big and small, will soon become safer and friendlier for all.

Having read a few other books about stubborn children, I wrongly presumed that's what this book would be about. I confess to picking it up and reading without looking at the press release sheet or the back cover (a habit I frequently have now - I like to dive straight in!). So initially as I read through the book I thought 'huh'. As in 'this is an odd book'. At the moment I prefer vibrant colours, none of which are in the subdued pages. I don't mind some misery, but there is a lot as the boy faces horrific hardships for a child (suitable for a war-torn country). When I reached the end, my first conclusion was that I wasn't keen on the book.

But then I realised that was unfair. I'd had an incorrect view of what the book was about, which made me view the book in a distorted light. Understanding what the book is about meant that it made sense. There's a reason why there aren't vibrant colours. It isn't that type of book. It is portraying the reality faced by so many children in the world, who are caught up in wars and battles that have nothing to do with them. I think that this is a good way to show children how life can be for other people their own age, to help explain what happens in the wars and battles. Children hear those terms all the time on the news, and wonder what it's all about. Although what happens to the boy isn't very nice, at the end there is some happiness and evidence of compassion. Good things begin to happen. It's endorsed by Amnesty International, which isn't a surprise given the book's content.

I give this book 8/10.

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