War is Over by David Almond

War is Over

David Almond, Author

David Litchfield, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, May 12, 2020

Pages: 128

Suitable for ages: 9-12

Themes: Children, Effects of War, Women, WW I effort, Homefront, Community


It’s 1918, and war is everywhere. John’s father is fighting in the trenches far away in France, while his mother works in a menacing munitions factory just along the road. His teacher says that John is fighting, too, that he is at war with enemy children in Germany. But John struggles. “I am a child. How can I be at war?”

One day, in the wild woods outside town, John has an impossible moment: a dreamlike meeting with a German boy named Jan. John catches a glimpse of a better world, in which children like Jan and himself can one day scatter the seeds of peace.

David Almond brings his ineffable sensibility to a poignant tale of the effects of war on children, interwoven with David Litchfield’s gorgeous black-and-white illustrations.

What I like about this book:

David Almond’s short novel, War is Over, is a both a poignant and sensitive novel. It explores the emotions of a boy and the attitudes of his community about war and peace. This novel raises many questions for readers and is a timely discussion topic in classrooms.

John is conflicted about the war. His father has been gone so long that he can’t remember what he looks like. He just wants the war over. So he writes letters to the King of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury and asks them when the war will end — no answers.

The book addresses the impact of the war on the homefront. There is fear and hatred for the Germans that carries over into the classroom. Especially when the teacher tells his students “they are children at war” and makes John and his classmates march like soldiers as they go on an outing to visit the munitions factory, where most of their mothers work making bombs. Some of the boys play war after school, but not John.

John and his classmates encounter a friend’s Uncle Gordon, who is ridiculed because he’s a conscientious objector. Uncle Gordon traveled to Germany before the war, and has a fist full of drawings of young German children. He impresses upon the students that “children aren’t monsters and are children like you.” John manages to snatch a picture of a boy named “Jan from Düsseldorf.” He writes Jan a friendly letter. He dreams of Jan and a better world. He imagines seeing Jan in the forest, which becomes a coping mechanism for John until the war ends.

Almond’s lyrical text meanders around the beautiful pen and ink drawings by David Litchfield, which fill  every page. Doves fly above and turn into falling bombs and tears turn into shrapnel. His artwork shows the starkness of the factory as shifts begin and end and women make their way home. A somber topic, but presented so sympathetically and poetically.

David Almond is the acclaimed author of many award-winning novels for children, including Skellig, Kit’s Wilderness, and My Name is Mina. David Almond’s books are beloved all over the world, and in 2010 he was the recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. He lives in England.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

22 thoughts on “War is Over by David Almond

  1. When I was a child, my mother shared many stories of her experiences, growing up in Germany during the time of Hitler. Her stories were filled with nightmarish imagery. The only beauty I ever saw in her wartime memories was that she escaped, although barely, but made it to America where she was able to start a new life in which she fell in love, married, and raised a family. I enjoyed reading your review of War is Over and will be ordering it right away. Many thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I didn’t know that about your mother. You are such a beautiful writer, I hope you share some of her stories someday. I have an opera friend who survived a concentration camp after WWII ended and the Germans went after ethnic Germans in Hungry, Yugoslavia etc. — little known history. Her memoirs are extraordinary. She’s in her 80s and suffers from a lot of depression. She lost most of her family.


  2. I just read David Almond’s Secret Heart. He is an excellent writer with a magical realism feel to his work. This book sounds wonderful as I love books that touch on history. The effect of war on children is not often touched on, but an important aspect. A great review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like a beautifully written novel! It’s always amazing/horrifying to me how many completely different books can be written about wars, and this book sounds like a unique take on the subject. Thanks for the great review!


  4. I’ve been reading my share of MG World War II books this year and this one is another for my future read list. The MC’s dilemma and confusion about war is one that resonates the most. I’ve heard of this author but have yet to read one of his books. Guess I’ll start here. Thanks for sharing WAR IS OVER on MMGM.


    • Yes, the child’s POV about war makes this book stand out. And, I love the girl’s hermit uncle who is anti-war trying to challenge the kids to think for themselves. We have reviewed a lot of books about war on MMGM — all very different, like the one you reviewed today. So many perspectives. Saw on the news today about the Holocaust survivors who are taking to FB to counteract the hurtful conspiracy theories about the Holocaust that claim it didn’t happen. Mark Zuckerberg won’t take down the accounts from negative comments in the US, but has around the world because it is illegel — not here. Unbelievable! We learn from history!


  5. This sounds so good, especially with the illustrations. And it would be interesting to see that period of time through a child’s eyes.


  6. This sounds really intriguing. I’ve always had an interest in WWI, maybe because it’s not covered so much as WWII. I could relate to the character’s experience about realizing that the Germans were just kids like him. I felt much the same way when I realized Russians were people too (in the 80s, during the Cold War). The illustrations, just going by the cover, really set the mood on this one!


    • You’re right, the illustrations do set the mood. Great discussion book. You know, I also remember having those feelings as a child when there was so much fear about the RUssians. I kept thinking about the Russian kids in the 60s.


  7. This is a heavy subject for children but so relevant for these times. Looking forward to reading this one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s