A moving and ultimately hopeful look at what we hold most dear — and carry with us — when we are forced to flee our homes because of war.
When the enemy bombs the library, everything burns, and only one book survives. As war rages around them, Peter and his father, alongside so many refugees, flee their home, taking with them a treasure box that holds something rarer than rubies and more precious than gold. They journey through mud and rain and long cold nights, and soon survival becomes more important than any possession. But as the years go by, Peter never forgets the treasure box, and one day he returns to find it. This moving story from celebrated author Margaret Wild is illustrated with Freya Blackwood’s subtly affecting artwork, which incorporates pages of children’s books in translation. The result is a haunting and beautiful tale of the power of stories and the resilience of the human spirit.
Though avid readers know that books are precious, that this one contains the history of a people uprooted by war makes it more precious, and its existence makes it impossible to erase the culture…A poignant and accessible story about the importance of the survival of a people’s history as well as of the people themselves. Excellent. —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
This refugee parable is presented in intentionally ambiguous terms, with the collage (incorporating pages of the destroyed books) and color palette complementing the tone…This is not a message about the specifics of war, but one of refugees’ hopeful perseverance through cherished stories and objects they preserve for future generations. —Booklist
This beautifully written and illustrated picture book is an excellent read-aloud and discussion starter for elementary school classes talking about war and the resilience of displaced peoples. —School Library Journal
This book provides a sobering look at what happens when people are forced to flee their country and need to determine what is important enough to save…The value of libraries is also extolled as the family book is returned to the shelves so that others can share the knowledge found in its pages. This title would work best in one-on-one readings so that the text can be explained. —School Library Connection
This account of one fictional refugee family’s experience is made all the more heart-rending by the characters’ stoicism: tears are not something in which people like Peter and his father can indulge. The pencil, watercolor, and collage art, which has a three-dimensional quality, features what look like pages torn from books written in various languages, suggesting the different voices and common humanity of victims of wartime displacement. —The Horn Book
Beautifully expressive illustrations perfectly complement this moving story of the importance of stories, of people displaced by unwanted circumstances and the determination to carry on and do the right thing. —Reading Eagle (from Kendal Rautzhan’s "Books to Borrow")