Review Blog

Aug 28 2015

Suri's wall by Lucy Estela

cover image

Ill. by Matt Ottley. Penguin, 2015. ISBN 9780670077755
(Age: 7+) Recommended. Resilience. Determination. Children in war. Belief. Measuring her height against the wall Suri is surprised to find that she can now see over the top. The children come to her eager to see what she sees, forgetting their differences. She describes the rolling hills, the golden bridge, the harbour filled with ships, one resplendent with its red sails and ornate carvings.
Ottley has given this story of children in war an historical look: the ships are galleons, the people dressed in Medieval garb, buffalo pull large carts of grain, encouraging the reader to think about the timelessness of the impact of war on children.
Questions will keep popping into readers' mouths as they survey the scene Suri describes, asking when the story is set, where the children are, why they are in such a place, where are their parents and so on. Readers will accept what Suri sees but the last image of a war torn city and sunken ships will encourage readers to view the whole story from a different perspective and turn to the start of the book and reread it.
The character of Suri rejected at first because she is so tall, is now a necessary part of the children's days as she describes what is over the wall. Their belief in her stories keeps them hopeful reflecting what people do all over the world, to keep children safe from the vicissitudes of life during war.
Each question will raise others and so groups of children reading this book will widen their understanding of homeless children around the world. Their view of the world is not the one so beautifully described by Suri but a harsh cruel one reminiscent of the image Suri really sees.
Each child in Ottley's illustrations is different, their bleak situation, living in rows of dormitory beds, eating at a long table, the browns and grays contrasting with the scene described by Suri, serve to underline the predicament they are in and will further endear them to the reader. Their faces will stay with the reader as the book is closed.
Fran Knight

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