PPBF & MCBD – The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

Friday is always a favorite day of the week, because I get to post a Perfect Picture Book and read reviews of new picture books posted by fellow bloggers. Today is a very special Friday, though, because it’s the annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and regular readers know how much I enjoy sharing books that shine a light on other cultures and that help build empathy for children whatever their backgrounds or abilities. To learn more about this special celebration, see below!

Title: The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

Written By: Raya Rahman

Illustrated By: Inshra Sakhawat Russell

Publisher/Date: Guba Publishing/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 and older

Themes/Topics: Rohingya, refugee camps, bird, injured animal, multicultural, Islam, hope, #ReadYourWorld, Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Opening:

It was the end of afternoon prayers. Faisal had just left the mosque and was waiting for his friend Rahim. Suddenly, he heard a faint chirping noise in the bushes.

Brief Synopsis: Faisal, a young Rohingya refugee, finds an injured bird in the bushes and nurses it back to health, even after he has injured his own arm in a fall.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

The Unexpected Friend provides a window into the lives of Rohingya children living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, for those, like most of us, who have little knowledge of what these children and their families face, why they are in this situation, and what we can do to help.

It’s also a mirror for those living that life. In a situation in which education is scarce for children, having a picture book for these children to see themselves is so important. And its creators are having it translated into Bengali and Burmese to enable these children to read it.

I especially like that even with this heavy topic, children in a refugee camp because of genocide in their native country, the focus is not on the horrors that they’ve fled or that they endure daily. Rather, Rahman has crafted a fictional account that offers realistic depictions of the refugees’ hardships, including crowded conditions, food lines, a busy medical clinic, and the necessity of gathering firewood in the forest. But Rahman doesn’t dwell on these conditions; rather, she shows how despite his circumstances and the fall that injures his own arm, young Faisal cares for an injured bird. He rescues it, convinces his mother and sisters to help care for it, and, in a truly selfless act, parts with his new-found friend once it heals.

Featuring a child who, in the depths of deprivation, cares for another, reminds us all of the need for empathy for other humans and animals. I also love the message of hope this story relates: the healed bird flies back to the wild, a symbol that Faisal and his family may also enjoy a better life someday soon.

Most of the illustrations are understandably rendered in earth-toned hues, befitting the refugee camp setting. But there are pops of vibrant reds, yellows, and greens depicted in clothing worn, and, most importantly, the red bird itself. The endpapers are also photographs of a Rohinyga camp, with the images of Faisal, his family, and the bird superimposed on the back papers.

A Note about Craft:

Writing a story set in a refugee camp and featuring a young refugee and his family is no easy task. How does one avoid portraying the protagonists as mere victims and their lives as total misery? In The Unexpected Friend, I think Rahman accomplishes this feat by portraying a main character, Faisal, who is not only true to his religion, the story begins as he leaves the mosque following afternoon prayers, but who also is willing to help another creature, even in the midst of his own misery. And while Rahman doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of life in the camp, she mentions them as Faisal passes the food lines and crowded clinic on his return with the injured bird to his sisters and mother, rather than merely portraying Faisal, or another family member, spending hours in those lines. And by placing an injured bird at the heart of the story, Rahman reminds readers that these refugees, too, can someday fly from the camp to start a new life.

Guba Publishing is “an independent publishing house based out of Oakland, California making children’s picture books, flashcards and posters with a focus on fun and quirky illustrations and telling diverse stories inspired by our Bengali roots.”

2020 Multicultural Children’s Book Day Poster by Jerry Craft.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

 

Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,

Platinum

Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,

Gold

Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,

Silver

Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,

Bronze

Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers BooksTimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

 

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

I received a copy of The Unexpected Friend to review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

12 responses to “PPBF & MCBD – The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

  1. Wow! This sounds like an important and moving story of empathy and survival. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This book sounds amazing, both in its subject matter and treatment. Such a difficult subject, and so difficult to make accessible for younger children. I’m looking forward to reading this one. Thank you for the rec!

  3. Such an important book about the displaced Rohingya refugees.Rahman has honed in on the realistic hardships faced by the refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, through the eyes of a boy. I am intrigued that they’ve printed the book in the language of the refugees, so that they can read their own story! You always find the gem. I knew there was unrest, but didn’t follow it. Thank you for sharing the video and I am a dsappointed in how Aung San Suu Kyi has changed from an advocate of peace. Would like to know more of her story — she didn’t look very happy in the video. What a change from the leader she once was! I have friends who spend 6 months a year in Myanmar.

    • I knew very little about the Rohingya experience until I read this picture book & did some background research. Im so thankful that I discovered this gem through Multicultural Childrens Book Day.

  4. Great review! I love any book/movie that conveys “the need for empathy for other humans and animals.” I hope this helps it get a bunch of exposure. Thank you.

  5. What a great sounding book. It really is important to have stories about the refugee situations around the world to help kids understand what is going on. There are so many areas of unrest in this world, it takes kindness and support from other areas to make a difference. Thank you for participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

    • I’ve read & reviewed several picture books about children in refugee camps, but this is the first I’ve seen about the Rohingya experience. I agree, it’s so important for children everywhere to understand what’s going on. Thanks for stopping by & commenting!

  6. What a wonderful review highlighting this sensitive and not well know subject. This is the only refugee picture that I know of on the Rohingya people. I can’t wait to read it. Thank you for sharing with Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

    • This is the first I’ve read about the Rohingya experience, too, and I read and review a lot of picture books dealing with the refugee experience. So happy that I received this book to review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day – thank you for spearheading this wonderful celebration!

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