A beautiful addition to the Where The Poppies Now Grow series this story told in rhyme highlights the contribution made by women during World War 1. The gentle illustrations combine superbly with the text to make this subject accessible to young children.
In this moving story we are reunited with Ben and Ray from Where the Poppies Now Grow and meet their childhood friend, Lily. Named after a flower her father saw in the local lane, Lily has always wanted to be a nurse. Her father tells her that, just like the flower after which she is named, Lily will bring light in the dark and bring hope to a world of pain. He would have no idea when he said this how true his prophecy would be and the manner in which this would happen.
We follow Lily, Ben and Ray as they play joyfully in the woods, gather blackberries and paddle in brooks. This rural idyll is shattered by the outbreak of war and Ben and Ray are called up. Still looking pitifully young they exchange their childhood freedoms for uniforms, army kit, weapons and a journey to the battlefields of France. Lily misses her friends and like many other young women she joins the war effort too as a nurse. She works in the hospital tent and tends the wounded. One day a young soldier is brought in so severely injured that the local priest is summoned. As Lily watches she realises that it is her childhood friend, Ben.
I found this a poignant and moving read. Not only does the book pay tribute to the valuable contribution made by women to the war effort it also depicts the permanent nature of the effects of war on a generation of young men and women. Despite the sadness of the subject matter this is ultimately a story of hope and of peace. It shows how people can overcome dreadful events to create a life of love.
The wonderful illustrations by Martin Impey, as with the previous books in the series, combine utterly perfectly with Hilary Robinson’s flowing prose. The rhyming text lends itself to being read aloud and even quite young children, I think, would understand the story at their own level. The joy of the young friends at play is captured beautifully and makes the contrast with war more effective. I particularly liked the pictures of Lily as a child and adult at the start of the story and the family photo album on the final pages. The photo album is just perfect and the feeling of permanence and life continuing through subsequent generations despite war is reassuring and wise. Both adults and children can be soothed by this message.
This charming and moving story is perfectly timed to coincide with the Centenary of the end of the First World War and would be a welcome addition to school library and classroom shelves. A lovely book to share at home too and one that I think parents may find very poignant.
Peace Lily can be purchased at most good bookshops, borrowed at your local library or bought online
The publishers of the book, Strauss House Productions have created a lovely trailer which you can watch here.
If you enjoyed this book you may like to try The Christmas Truce by the same team which was part of my Book Advent Calendar last year and is a beautiful and moving story inspired by the famous events of Christmas 1914.