My 11 year old son has interesting reading tastes. He has a great interest in Europe, largely from his deep obsession with Eurovision (accidentally created by his parents two years ago). Recently we were at the library and he was browsing the European History section. He always wants to try to read adult tomes on Russia, and I have to try and sway him to something more achievable- despite his interest, he often doesn't finish these books. On this day he picked A Family from Bosnia.
A Family from Bosnia describes the daily life of a young family during the Bosnian war in the early 1990s. A rather extraordinary subject for a children's picture book I think. Nadja and her parents are forced to leave their home town and journey to Sarajevo to live with her grandparents in their small flat. They can't use the lounge room all that much as it's on the side most likely to be bombed or shot. The family spend much of their time in the kitchen at the back of the building, or in the cellar when the bombing is particularly heavy.
Nadja's father, Nedzad was a hairdresser before the war, but now he is in the army. Her mother, Arina walks for kilometres to collect water when the water is off, which it often is. There are food shortages, and the electricity is often off too. One page is titled Making Do, and it shows Nadja's grandfather turning old paper and cardboard into fuel for the stove. It is certainly a far cry from what modern children would see as "Making Do".
Schools are closed many days, yet the children can't play outside. Nadja has a small bike, but she isn't allowed to ride it outside because of the danger. Instead she plays inside, or occasionally on the balcony with other children from the apartments.
My library has several other titles from this series (Families around the World, Wayland Publishers) and I think I will search them out. Bosnia during the war is possibly the most extreme example but it is good to have older primary school children living comfortable suburban lives in Australia realise that not everyone has it so good. Ethiopia next I think. Somehow I think that Switzerland may not be as challenging.
An Illustrated Year is hosted by An Abundance of Books.