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We were invited, by writer Nicola Davies and illustrator, Jackie Morris, to organise a project to get 100 copies of a new picture book, called The Day War Came, into Parliament. The purpose is to offer the support of a collective of the country’s most prominent and prolific authors, illustrators and poets, for the reopening of The Dubs Scheme to protect 3000 lone child refugees. We set Tamsin to work writing the letter that would accompany the books and, using our connections and many wonderful offers of help, we got the support of the extraordinary list of people (or list of extraordinary people, if you prefer!) that you will find at the bottom of this page!

This is the message to Parliament: As a group of writers and illustrators we are very aware of the power of words and images to extend our understanding and empathy beyond our own experience. We do not all have first-hand experience of war – there is all the difference in the world between an intellectual grasp of complex world politics and being equipped to make a judgement on behalf of a child who has witnessed unimaginably horrific events. We would like, therefore, to raise the funds to send out 100 copies of a new picture book to key decision makers in and around Parliament. The Day War Came, by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb shows the world of a young girl caught up in war in Syria, and her need to flee the country alone. We believe that the Home Office needs to reinstate The Dubs Scheme to support, protect and accommodate lone child refugees – and we offer our support to Help Refugees UK, to Lord Dubs and to others who are pushing for this matter to be addressed now as a matter of great urgency.

 

There is one almost universal misconception about picture books, and that is in the assumption that they are just for children. Picture books are for the space that adults and children occupy together; in fact they are some of the only books that are read by, and form a conversation between, an adult and a child. They enable us to understand and discuss the true purpose of social ideals like solidarity, partnership, friendship, responsibility and kindness. Picture books help us to extend our intelligence beyond the limits of our own experience. Illustration in particular has the potential to help an adult and a child understand a whole range of expression and emotion, and also to see the world from a child’s point of view: remember the sheer joy of Eric Carle’s ravenous and cheerful little caterpillar; the welcome, in the face of uncertainty, offered to Judith Kerr’s Tiger who turned up for tea; the raucous humour of life with Jan Pieńkowski’s Meg, Mog and Owl; or the power of partnership portrayed in Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson’s Room on the Broom? Adults know these books as well as children do, either because they were part of their own formative years or because they were an essential bond between them and children in their own family.

Those who voted in Parliament against the protection and accommodation of 3000 lone child refugees, and those recently who sought to close the Dubs scheme to allow them safe passage, were perhaps not equipped with sufficient understanding of what those children had experienced and the duty they had to ensure their safety. As one of an international coalition of countries that made a political judgement that it was necessary to engage in this war too, our understanding, both intellectual and emotional, should have been that it was also incumbent on us to provide sanctuary to those displaced both by our own actions and by the violence of those we sought to obstruct. In a very different way, these events are also about the relationship between adults and children.

What is the Dubs Scheme? This is an amendment to the Immigration Act that requires the government to make arrangements for unaccompanied refugee children. The amendment is named after Lord Alf Dubs, now in his 80s, who arrived in the UK on the ‘Kindertransport’ set up to support lone children during the Second World. Find out more here. Help Refugees UK has challenged the Government’s failure to implement the amendment and its early closure of The Dubs Scheme. They were granted an appeal in the High Court. As this took place a few days after Parliament rose for the summer recess, the High Court has reserved its judgement. You can read about the High Court challenge here.

A young girl on Kindertransport, 1938; source: Holocaust Memorial Museum

We hope that this book will help those who have the responsibility to make these decisions to imagine if, on an ordinary day in their own childhood, the war came. To convey these events in picture book form does not trivialise them, it does the reverse: it moves the discussion into that vital space in which one generation and the next listen to each other, allow images to inform them and, together, begin to understand what life is like beyond the constraints of what is familiar personally – in this case, what it is like to be displaced by war, and to be assailed by the culture of suspicion that we often create around those refugees who do arrive here.

Empathy and emotional intelligence are not a ‘nice to have’, an optional extra in politics, secondary to the skills of oratory or analysis, they are skills vital to our political system. Lack of ability to empathise is identified as a huge risk factor within the business environment, and when it comes to judgements made by politicians and their advisers, the risk is even greater.

As Parliament prepares to return to its current session it is vital that the matter of the treatment of lone child refugees is not allowed to be forgotten within the maelstrom that is our own current domestic politics. As a nation we have a responsibility to sustain this campaign and let it be defined by hope and by compassion, not by ignorance and intolerance. This war is not over, there will be more refugees; and it is our responsibility to help them to rebuild – and to move now with speed and purpose.

(in order of appearance, as it were)

Nicola Davies – author
Rebecca Cobb – Illustrator
Jackie Morris – author and illustrator
Neil Gaiman – author
Chris Riddell – author and illustrator (former Children’s Laureate)
Julia Green – author and Professor of Writing for Young People, Bath Spa University
Robert MacFarlane – author and Fellow of Emmanuel College Cambridge
Elizabeth Laird – author
Julian Sedgwick – author
Marcus Sedgwick – author
A.F. Harrold – poet and author
Axel Scheffler – illustrator and author
Julia Donaldson – author
Philip Ardagh – author
M.G. Leonard – author
Beverley Naidoo – author
Gill Lewis – author
Karin Celestine – illustrator and author
Lauren St John – author
S.F Said – author
Katherine Rundell – author
Abi Elphinstone – author
Nicola Morgan – author
Celia Rees – author
Chris Haughton – illustrator and author
Miriam Moss – author
Candy Gorlay – author
Kimberly Pauley – author
Nicky Singer – author and playwright
Cressida Cowell – author and illustrator
Malorie Blackman – author and former UK Children’s Laureate
Elizabeth Dulemba – author and illustrator
Dr Mimi Thebo – author and reader Bristol University
Lucy Christopher – author and senior lecturer, Bath Spa University
Piers Torday – author
Jamila Gavin – author
John Dougherty – author and poet
Fiona Dunbar – author and organiser of Authors for Refugees Auction.
Liz Brownlee – Poet, and National Poetry Day Ambassador
Kit de Waal – author
Robin Stevens – author
Jo Cotterill – author
Coral Rumble – poet and author
Philip Waddell – poet
Joanne Harris – author
Ehsan Abdollahi – author
Alan Ayckbourn – playwright and director
The Society of Authors – via Nicola Solomon – author and Chief Executive of the Society of Authors
Dawn Finch – author, librarian and past president of CILIP
Katharine Quarmby – author
Merryn Glover – author and co-Chair of Society of Authors, Scotland
Geraldine McCaughrean – author
James Mayhew – illustrator and author
Simon Brett OBE FRSL – author and producer
Charles Palliser – author
Anne Fine OBE FRSL – author
Preti Taneja – author, broadcaster and academic
Steve Jones – author
Mary Hoffman – author
Claire Tomalin – author and biographer
Sarah Waters – author
Anne Sebba – author
Maureen Duffy – author
Wendy Cope – poet
David Donachie – author and Chair: Society of Authors
Simon Brett – author
Janet Laurence – author
Daniel Hahn – author and translator
Anne Rooney – author
Jake Hope – Chair of Youth Libraries Group
Terence Blacker RSL – author, journalist and publisher
Penny Joelson – author
Miriam Halahmy – author
Dyan Sheldon – author
Judy Allen – author
Savita Kalhan – author
Chitra Soudar – author
Margaret Bateson-Hill – author and storyteller
Ross Montgomery – author
Beverley Birch – author
Anthony Horowitz – author
Eloise Williams – author
Jonathan Coe – author
Steve Cole – author
Dr Lydia Syson – author
Sarah Underwood – illustrator
A.M Dassau – author
Jane McGuinness – illustrator
Andy Stanton – author
Cerrie Burnell – author and actor
Tamsin Rosewell – bookseller (Kenilworth Books)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day War Came is written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. It is published by Walker Books UK. You can find out more about writer Nicola Davies here, and about Rebecca Cobb here. Walker will be donating £1 from the sale of each copy of The Day War Came to Help Refugees UK. The book is endorsed by Amnesty International.
How will we pay for the books to go to Parliament? The project will be crowd-funded, and we are grateful to publisher Walker Books, for offering us a discount that will enable us to pay for the time to organise, print letters, postage and packing of these books. This fundraiser is set up on behalf of a group of writers and illustrators, led by Nicola Davies and Jackie Morris, working with bookseller, Tamsin Rosewell. The funds raised will buy copies of a picture book called The Day War Came that will be sent to the UK Parliament, to key decision makers with the aim of better informing them what a lone child refugee faces. You can support us by donating if you are able to, or sharing to others if you can’t donate. The link is here: https://www.gofundme.com/the-day-war-came

Writer, Nicola Davies and illustrator, Rebecca Cobb. You can read more about their work by clicking on their names.

A few thank yous: no project is done alone. Firstly, we’d like to say huge thank you to all those authors, illustrators, playwrights, poets and academics who took the time to read our letter and add their name alongside ours; also to Jo McCrum and The Society of Authors who have supported us with enormous and furious energy! Thank you too to those who read early drafts of this letter and gave their comments and suggestions – particularly to our various partners: Dan, Robin and Paul for your honest opinions! To Joe Sedgwick studying in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, Nicky Parker at Amnesty International and John Ricketts in the House of Lords and from The Big Issue – your time and experience is very much appreciated.