Picture Books 14:14 Challenge!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  This holiday, I will be joining Christie Wright Wild in celebrating our wild love of children’s books with her PB 14:14 Challenge.  Each day for 14 days, I’ll choose one picture book to review and share what I’ve learned about one of the Top 10 Story Elements for Picture Books from it.  Follow along to learn with me, or feel free to join in the challenge yourself!  Yes, there are prizes.

To kick off, I’ll be sharing the book The Enemy.  No, I did not choose it to be ironic for Valentine’s Day.  I chose it because it is a story that beautifully transitions from war and hatred into peace and love.  And so I’ll be looking at how well it exemplifies Story Element #5: Theme.

Title: The Enemy: a book about peaceThe Enemy

Author: Davide Cali

Illustrator: Serge Bloch

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009

The Enemy is the story of a soldier and his enemy who pass their days shooting at each other and hiding in their own, isolated holes.  The soldier narrating is tired of fighting, but he is afraid that if he leaves his hole, the other soldier will kill him.  Besides, the manual he was given at the start of the war told him he must kill his enemy before his enemy killed him. While there are many wonderful books on the theme of peace, Cali’s does a particularly wonderful job of showing that what allows people to be violent to each other is dehumanizing one another.  He writes:

Except for hunger, the enemy and I have nothing in common.  He is a wild beast.  He does not know mercy.  I know this because I read it in my manual.

And later:

If he kills us, he will also kill our families and our pets, burn down our forests, even poison our water.  The enemy is not a human being.

As we get to know the narrating soldier better, we see how humanly he experiences the war, hungry, tired from being rained on all night, lonesome for his family, and even unsure of what is happening in the world outside of his hole.  He starts to wonder if perhaps his enemy shares any of these emotions:

At night, there are lots of stars above my hole.  I wonder if the enemy sees them too.  Maybe if he looked at them he would understand that war is pointless and it must stop.

Even after considering this, the soldier is so listless of fighting and so afraid to surrender that he decides he must kill the enemy.  Disguised, he sneaks into the enemy’s hole, but he finds the enemy has snuck over to his hole to do the same.  But the enemy’s hole is not completely empty.  There are photos of his family and the enemy’s own manual… with the soldier pictured as the enemy. The illustrations are as simple and poignant as the text, and though I won’t spoil the ending, the final illustration is a beautiful demonstration of our shared humanity and a powerful call for peace.

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9 Comments

Filed under Picture Books

9 responses to “Picture Books 14:14 Challenge!

  1. ManjuBeth

    Laura, Thanks for sharing The Enemy: a book about peace. I have two reviews of PBs with the theme of peace. It’s amazing how many ways a theme can be approached.

    • Thanks, Manju! I saw your review of Grandfather Gandhi – it looks like a beautiful book. What was the other? I can never get enough of books with a creative approach to peace.

  2. Laura, this looks like a wonderful book, so needed NOW when there is so much conflict on the news. Thanks for bringing this title to the challenge, I was not familiar with it or the author. Will have to get hold of this one.

  3. What a thought provoking book. Not an easy topic either. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I agree, it’s not an easy topic. I think part of what makes it so strong is how boldly the author approaches topics that are somewhat taboo for kids, but that they really need to talk about, like killing or blindly following a “manual.” It’s one book about peace that doesn’t feel overly innocent or condescending. Thanks for checking out my blog!

  5. Hi Laura, what a theme to discuss in a picture book but one that is so relevant to so many children who experience war as a daily impact on their lives. Thank you for your review, I will be sure to find this book on my next visit to the library.

  6. this sounds amazing! I can’t wait to check it out! I love the quotes you share!

  7. a pretty heavy topic here. I am curious to read the book and see exactly how it is handled from page to page.

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