Everything has changed for Yazan. There are no more trips to the park, no more riding his shiny red bike- even his mother has changed. They no longer spend hours together, painting; now she spends all her time watching the news with the volume turned right up. Even school has changed- he goes one day, but not the next.
One day, after attempting to entertain himself, Yazan decides to take himself to the park, but the world outside is not as he remembers.
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. All of a sudden, the Fridays that were supposed to mark our weekends became frightening instead of fun. Families were afraid to go outside and instead stayed at home...
Published today, 'Tomorrow' is a poignant story, told from a young child's perspective, about living with the reality of war. There have been a number of books recently about people fleeing conflict and rebuilding their lives somewhere new; this one challenges the reader to consider the impact of war on those still living at home.
Nadine has really captured a young child's sense of frustration- his boredom at being confined, his lack of understanding of why this is and his confusion by the change in his parents. His fear at being outside and the world as he knew it having changed is also clearly conveyed. The illustrations show dark buildings with empty windows and damaged walls surrounding him, towering over him and yet, the true horror of war is not explicitly conveyed. Once safely with his parents again, his mother tells him 'people are fighting in the streets and going out of the house is too dangerous', offering sufficient explanation for Yazan being kept at home, but allowing room for further discussion.
Colour is cleverly used throughout the book. The bright yellow through the window mocks Yazan sitting in a dark corner of a room, tempting him with memories of 'outside'. Dark, sinister shadows ooze from the television as his mother watches. This contrasts powerfully with the use of colour for the things he loves- his bright red bike, his mother's red dress, the memories of the park which they paint together.
With older children, the text could be explored in greater depth, encouraging empathy and understanding of others. Why does Yazan's mother constantly watch the news? Why might Yazan have school one day but not the next? Why does his mother no longer paint? Why does she paint on the walls at the end? There is also much that could be explored through discussing the illustrations.
This is a beautiful book, powerful in its seeming simplicity, telling a story of family love in circumstances the like of which most of us are lucky enough to have never experienced.
Today, we wait for a time when 'tomorrow' can be a better day for all Syrian children.