I live in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, a small rural village nestled between three majestic volcanoes, on the shores of Lake Atitlan. My house is 400 meters away from the school I founded and work at, La Puerta Abierta , and my morning commute includes a hop, skip and a jump through my garden. An observer of my life could fairly say that I live in a bubble. I am generally unwilling to loose myself in the darkness of politics and I avoid reading the newspapers of Guatemala which often highlight urban tragedies and car wrecks on the front page. Some might label me as naive, as my questions regarding world struggles may appear childlike. That said, I believe that naive is far from ignorant and I often use children’s books to reconnect with the world at large. Day to day, my focus is local, collaborating with the teachers, families, and children in my little corner of the world in Guatemala. I believe that my community efforts will inspire outward change. I like my bubble, but I also recognize the importance of journeying out of it. Via Nadine Kaadan’s Tomorrow, we visit Syria, a war torn nation and witness conflict and hope through the eyes of a child.
Regional focus: Syria
Author: Nadine Kaadan
Illustrator: Nadine Kaadan
Genre: children’s literature
In “Tomorrow,” we meet a Yazan, a young Syrian boy who craves to go outside and return to the carefree youth that he remembers. He wants to visit the park, play with his friends, and ride his bike in the street like most children . Inside his house, the ambiance has turned dreary and sad. His mother who used to paint beautiful pictures, now sits alone, and pensive, in a dark room, listening to the devastating news of his war-struck country. One afternoon, after Yazan has exhausted all his options of indoor activities, his curiosity overcomes him and he sneaks out of the house and begins to explore the world outside. He discovers an abandoned city, no children are playing in the park, no vendors are selling treats in the streets. He hears the echo of explosions in the distance. When Yazan’s parents find their son alone wandering the city, they embrace him and in kid friendly terms, explain why for the moment, he cannot play outside. Yazan’s mom, embraces her creativity and invites him to help her bring the outside in. Together they paint a colorful mural of city memories within their house.
What I love:
- Kaadan’s story is raw and honest, without being tragic of scary for young readers.
- Kaadan’s illustrations cleverly reflect the emotions of the characters in the story. When Yazan’s mother is sad, colors are grey and dark. When Yazan feels hopeful at the end of the story, colors are vibrant and happy.
- Tomorrow inspires hope for a generation of children who have lived and witnessed war, not only in Syria, but across the globe.
Themes: family, war, hope, empathy
- What is war? Why do you think that people/countries/groups fight?
- Have you ever had a conflict with a friend or a family member? How did you resolve the conflict?
- How do you think Yazan feels at the beginning, middle, and end of the story, Tomorrow?
- Find Syria on the map. What countries surround Syria. What are some of the cultural traditions found in Syria.
- Like Yazan and his mother, design a mural of favorite places in your town and illustrate them on a large piece of paper.
- Imagine that you have invited Yazan to your house for lunch. Make a list of questions that you’d like to ask him. What advice would you like to share with him?