Flowers for Sarajevo
Written by John McCutcheon
Illustrated by Kristy Caldwell
Children the world over, every single day are experiencing the destruction of their cities and lives by war. How can that be explained to the other children without causing unnecessary nightmares? Is there any possibility of teaching a positive response? Something capable of making a statement as well as offering survival?
Flowers for Sarajevo is close to a perfect beginning. This beautiful, softly illustrated picture book relates a story based on the real bombing of one of the last bakeries in Sarajevo on May 27, 1992. The mortar hit at ten o’clock in the morning killing twenty-two people just standing in line to buy bread. But a most amazing thing happened the next morning at ten. A door across the block opened, a man wearing a tuxedo carried a chair and a cello over to the crater. He sat, played a moving concerto, folded his chair, and walked away. Then did the same for each of the next twenty-one days.
Added to the true story is one of a flower seller and his son, allowing the story to be told from the viewpoint of a child. The child’s response is to pray for each of the broken families. He also leaves his unsold flowers at day’s end at the door of the broken bakery and the orchestra door. The story leaves many unanswered questions, does his father return? Does the bakery rebuild? But true to life, the questions remain unanswered. What the children will see is how the people support one another, how they all respond to questions without answers.
Inserted inside the back cover is a CD with an original folk song by the author about the event, as well as a beautiful rendition of the concerto played by the cello. Teachers, librarians and parents will appreciate the depth of the author’s notes concerning the actual event, the biography side bar about the cellist, Vedran Smailovic, and the description of the, ”Region of War” complete with maps and suggestions for further reading.
Even though this book is listed as a pre-school through grade three read, it is a book capable of being used to meet curriculum requirements in geography, social studies, language arts and current events in grades through middle school. Picture books can be used successfully far beyond elementary school.
Librarians, teachers and parents, as well as guidance counselors can use this as a book club discussion book for talking about how people can respond to events. What helps us survive as people? How should we respond to trouble with respect and compassion for the people around us? Flowers and music are a powerful beginning.
- Title: Flowers for Sarajevo
- Author: John McCutcheon
- Illustrator: Kristy Caldwell
- Publisher: Peachtree, 2017
- Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
- Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-56145-943-8
- Genre: Picture Book
- Grade level: PreK to 3)
- Extras: Detailed Author Note/ Background History and Geography of Sarajevo/ CD with original music as well as cello music mentioned in the book/ Related Reading List/Educator Suggestions