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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Nadine Kaadan
Age Range: 6-8
Yazan’s lovely red bike leans idly against the wall outside his house. He no longer goes to the park to play or sees his friend who lives next door. His mother no longer paints; instead she sits in front of the television with the news turned up very loud. Yazan doesn’t understand why he has to stay in; everything around him is changing. Although Yazan has been told he mustn’t go outside he’s bored and one day defies his parents and escapes into the streets. However, the world he encounters is not what he expected: The streets are empty, there are no other children to play with, the street seller of tasty beans and cumin is nowhere to be seen and there are scary sounds of explosions all around. Eventually Yazan’s father finds him and his parents try to explain why he cannot go outside.
Syrian author and illustrator Nadine Kaadan has created a simple yet powerfully evocative story that captures the true tragedy of the lives of children living in war-torn Syria. As the author explains at the back of the book, she encountered children like Yazan in her hometown of Damascus, their lives were changing and they couldn’t understand why. Fear had become a normal part of everyday life with families afraid to go outside.
Kaadan noticed how her own illustrative style started to change with her palette becoming gloomy and dark as she felt the need to express what she had observed. The captivating artwork in pencil and watercolour encapsulates what is happening around Yazan without the text needing to be explicit – the blaring TV exudes large black shadows of dark grey and black ink wash as it releases the news and is one of the many metaphorical images used to portray war and destruction.
Yazan asks his mother “When will the fighting be over?” “I don’t know,” she replies and is forced to break the spell of his childhood innocence by explaining that people are fighting in the streets and going outside the house is dangerous. There are lighter tones though, with richer colours of reds, yellows and lighter blues used to lighten the mood, especially in the final pages as Yazan’s mother finds an ingenious solution by painting a park in his bedroom.
Tomorrow is a wonderful richly illustrated picture book that should be on everyone’s shelf. It is a thought-provoking universal story that sadly mirrors the many other conflicts taking place around the world. Nevertheless, despite the desperation of the situation in Syria Kaadan still manages to end the book with a message of hope. As Kaadan says “Today, we wait for a time when ‘tomorrow’ can be a better day for all Syrian children.”