The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch

cover image

Wilkins Farago, 2009.
Highly recommended for all readers of 8 years and above. From the opening page, written in a huge white font on a dark background, we know 'There's a war on'. On the vast expanses of white paper, we then see what 'could be a desert' and two holes, each containing a soldier. All of this appears before the publication details and the red title page. As the soldier waits in his hole, firing a shot each day, otherwise staying hidden for fear of the enemy, lighting a fire only when hunger pains truly strike, he ponders their shared states of being alone and hungry. He reflects, also, on the information provided in his manual at the start of the war. From this he knows the enemy is 'cruel and ruthless - not a human being'. Fear and desperation lead him to finally leave the security of his hole, disguised by a branch, in order to kill the enemy. The result is that each is forced to see the other as a human being with a home, family and a different perception of what makes an enemy.
This picture book was published in association with Amnesty International Australia and deserves a place in every school library to promote the futility of war, the importance of human rights and the effects of propaganda. Likewise, it highlights such ideas as misconceptions or differences in perspective. Not only would it be a perfect resource to use in a unit on war but would fit exceptionally well as part of a study on bullying. It could be a great text when used in Restorative Justice Sessions, encouraging students to consider the viewpoints of others. The simplicity of the one-sided tale and the predominantly black and white sketches brilliantly support the story and make it accessible to all readers.
Jo Schenkel, Pilgrim School