PPBF – Escape: One Day We Had to Run

In addition to being Father’s Day, at least in the US where I live, and the first day of Summer in the northern hemisphere, this Sunday is also World Refugee Day, as designated by the United Nations. So I just had to share a new picture book about those who escape difficult living situations.

Title: Escape: One Day We Had to Run

Written By: Ming & Wah

Illustrated By: Carmen Vela

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2021

Suitable for Ages: 7-11

Themes/Topics: refugees, non-fiction, heroes

Opening:

Cling

Don’t Let Go.

Hold tight. Never give up.

Brief Synopsis:

A collection of 12 true stories of refugees and migrants dating from 1745 through the 21st century.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the world map on the end papers that shows the routes of those who fled;
  • If you had to leave your home and/or family, what one or two items would you bring? Why?
  • Check out more kid activity and classroom ideas for World Refugee Day here.

Why I Like this Book:

Geared towards the older end of the picture book range, Escape: One Day We Had to Run features 12 refugees or people who helped facilitate others’ escapes. On each double spread, an action verb captions a short description of a particular refugee or helper, bringing these events from history to life and building readers’ empathy. Many of the people featured were unknown to me, and probably to most readers.

Readers learn that Bonnie Prince Charlie disguised himself as a woman to escape capture in Scotland in 1745. We’re introduced to a Chinese diplomat, Dr. Feng Shan Ho, who defied orders and offered visas to Austrian Jews during World War II. And we learn that stowaways following the North Star set out on the Underground Railway to escape slavery in the United States.

I love the breadth of the refugee experiences portrayed, with many different means of escape highlighted, a long history of escape revealed, and many different reasons for flight included. I think by doing so, Ming & Wah enlarge readers’ understanding of why and how refugees flee, who they are, and what they experience afterwards. I think this collection will be particularly valuable for educators.

I also love that the refugees’ experiences are not sugar coated, but each vignette ends on a positive note. From a Syrian refugee who clung to a dinghy but finally competed in the Olympics, to the father of a future marathon winner, and the authors of the Curious George picture book, the authors include that each of the refugees featured has thrived and contributed to society in some way.

Vela’s two-page spreads vary from dark, nighttime escapes to map-like illustrations that show how these brave refugees managed to escape.

A Note about Craft:

In a video posted on Instagram, the authors, twin sisters Ming & Wah, reveal that the genesis for Escape: One Day We Had to Run was the story they heard growing up of their nanny who escaped Communist China in the 1950s by swimming to Hong Kong. They included that story in this collection.

I love the inclusion of “We” in the title to draw readers in and connect us to the refugee experience.

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!

6 responses to “PPBF – Escape: One Day We Had to Run

  1. Wow! Such a powerful and important collection of stories. I’m going to look for that one right now.

  2. Wow! This sounds like an amazing book! Just put it on hold at the SFPL. All 14 copies are in use, and I’m the second hold! It’s popular!

  3. This sounds like a unique and important book that would be perfect for teachers to use to discuss the entire refugee experience. Today, kids in the US only think of Mexico, South America and the Middle East. But we all have relatives that fled to America during a potato famine, because of religious persecution, war, and many other reasons. What a great share for World Refugee Day.

  4. What a powerful cover. Your review makes really excited to read this. Luckily my library has 10 copies and I got one on hold. Thanks for the introduction to the book.

  5. Sue Heavenrich

    We need more books like this! I love your review, and including bonnie prince charlie… maybe a reminder that if we dig back far enough we all have refugees in our family.

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