It’s a sobering fact that we have become so accustomed to seeing and hearing about war and conflict that we no longer react with the disgust and outrage that the brutality, devastation and dehumanisation merits. In Syria, armed conflict, death and destruction has been a reality for the population for over seven years – longer, in case we forget, than the duration of the first or second world wars.
When some particular event pushes its way back into the news the world’s media will always try and find an angle that will reawaken our numbed sympathies and this will usually mean they focus on the suffering of children – innocent victims being physically and mentally scarred for life.
But just how often do we stop to think what this world of war must look like through the eyes of a child too young to even understand what’s going on? How can a child cope with the world when everything that was normal becomes abnormal? These are the questions at the heart of Nadine Kaadan’s picture book, Tomorrow, which takes us into the confined, domestic and yet harrowing world of a young child living in a war zone.
As the story opens we meet Yazan who can no longer leave his house and he’s frightened and perplexed that everything is changing. Not only can’t he go out to meet his friends in the park, his mother has stopped painting as she used to and now only watches the terrible news stories on television. Every time he asks to go out of the house his parents find an excuse not to and soon he’s BORED! BORED!
Eventually the temptation to go outside on his own gets to be too much and he sneaks off on his bike. But once he’s outside he discovers just how much his world has changed and he’s glad to find his dad has come to take him home again. His mother is glad to see him and tells him he must never leave the house again – instead they stay in and draw their perfect world on the walls of their house.
In an afterword written by the author, Kaadan tells us:
“I wrote this story because I saw children like Yazan in my hometown of Damascus. Their lives were changing and they couldn’t understand why…Families were afraid to go outside and instead stayed at home.”
She also tells us that the experience of war changed her approach to drawing – instead of her usual dreamy romantic style she became dark and gloomy and you’ll see this reflected in some elements of this book. She uses dark grey, black ink wash and looming shadows to great effect. But there are slashes of colour – reds, yellows and lighter blues – to pick out mood and contrast. The drawing fills double pages and bleeds right off the edges of the book making the overall impact breathtakingly immediate.
The book will be released by the wonderful Lantana Publishing in August 2018 and you can pre-order the book on their website.
(This article was first published on the Letterpress Project website)