You Don’t Know What War Is

Yeva Skalietska

Shortlisted for The Week Junior Book Awards

This is going to be a very important book! 

Yeva is 12. She lives  with her grandmother in Kharkiv, Ukraine. In February 2022, she writes in her diary how she celebrated her birthday with a bowling party. She says how happy she feels, how she loves the cosy fifth floor flat where she lives, how much she enjoys school and how much fun she has with her friends. Then the explosions begin. 

What follows in this very short book is a child’s account of how Yeva and her grandmother cope with the start of the war, the destruction of their home and their subsequent escape to Ireland, via Hungary, and how she settles into her new life there.

Written in very accessible language, this is an ideal book for children who want to understand more about the war in Ukraine, and the effect on its children. For adults it serves as a salutary reminder of how brutally war changes lives. It is an excellent book for teachers to share with classes who are welcoming someone from a warzone. Indeed, some of the most poignant moments are where Yeva transcribes the text messages from her friends who voice their fears and try to console each other in equal measure.

The forward by Michael Morpurgo undoubtedly lends weight to the importance of this book but it will be Yeva’s words which will stay with the reader.

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Reviewed by Rachel Bolton