Piercing through the often numbing effects of conventional news coverage, this extraordinary collection of drawings, poems and other writings by children traumatized by war puts an achingly human face on the tragedies of Bosnians, Serbs, Croats and other former Yugoslavians. The entries, gathered from UNICEF-sponsored art therapy programs in 1992 and 1993, are disturbing, powerful and deeply moving. Five-year-old refugee Nedim poignantly queries: ``I had a new tricycle, red and yellow and with a bell. . . . Do you think they have destroyed my tricycle too?'' More complicated fears trouble Alik, a 13-year-old refugee who saw his home burned to the ground by soldiers, saw his uncle and a neighbor machine-gunned to death and saw the people of his village deported by train to detention camps: ``I saw it all! Now I can't sleep. I try to forget, but it doesn't work. I have such difficulty feeling anything anymore.'' Another 13-year-old, Mario from Dubrovnik, confides, ``This is the worst memory in my heart. . . . I wouldn't want anyone to experience it. The women and children are being taken away by force to the detention camp. I can't get the picture out of my head. . . . '' Like their words, these young artists' drawings reveal childhoods shattered by violence--10-year-old Belma from Sarajevo, for example, draws a trio of children hideously wounded by shrapnel; her picture bears the plaintive title, ``We were only waiting for candies.'' The final pages record a remarkably resilient hope that blossoms despite the devastation, and, wrenchingly, a plea for peace. A small but well-chosen selection of black-and-white photographs of ordinary, innocent children serves as an added reminder of the absurdity of war. The book is being published by other houses in 13 countries and in nine languages; all proceeds will go to the UNICEF ``I Dream of Peace Fund,'' which supports worldwide programs for children caught in war. The American edition also contains a preface by Maurice Sendak. All ages. (May)
Like the famous collection from the Holocaust concentration camp, "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" (1978/1993), this anthology puts a human and individual face on ethnic cleansing. The pictures, poems, and letters by young people of the former Yugoslavia are drawn from art therapy and counseling sessions that help the traumatized confront their war experiences. There are no slogans. These children bear witness to war up close: "They picked my uncle and a neighbor. Then they machine gunned them to death." Displacement is personal: "The women and children are being taken away by force to the detention camp. I can't get the picture out of my head because I've experienced it myself." Suddenly ethnic identity is an issue: "My father is a Croat, my mother is a Serb, but I don't know who I am." There are pictures of bombs and bombardment and a crayon drawing of a hairy monster bringing down a person. Yet in the end it's the mundane details of ordinary life that are most compelling. Readers will see that behind the stream of refugees on the evening news are kids who long for homework and football. A five-year-old remembers his new tricycle, "red and yellow and with a bell." And there's the 12-year-old's wish list that begins "Jeans: Levis 501 . . ." This has been developed under the auspices of UNICEF, whose earnings from the book's sale will go to the I Dream of Peace Fund to support programs for children affected by war throughout the world.