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
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
Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,
Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,
Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,
Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,
Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books, TimTimTom, 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 Groove, Lauren 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
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!