Tag Archives: Refugees

PPBF – Mexique: A Refugee Story from the Spanish Civil War

A month ago, I, like many in the world, watched in disbelief and horror as scenes of refugees fleeing Afghanistan unfolded across our television screens, social media feeds, and in newspaper articles. One article, in particular, caught my attention: a few of the major US newspapers turned to what I thought was an unlikely source for help in evacuating Afghan coworkers: the Mexican government. And then I remembered this Perfect Picture Book sitting on my nightstand, waiting for me to reread and review it. It turns out that Mexico has a history of helping those from afar seeking refuge.

Title: Mexique: A Refugee Story from the Spanish Civil War

Written By: María José Ferrada

Illustrated By: Ana Penyas

Translated By: Elisa Amado

Publisher/Date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/2020, originally published in Spanish by Alboroto Ediciones, Mexico/2018

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes/Topics: refugees, Spanish Civil War, hope, resilience

Opening:

At night I close my eyes and feel the waves beating. I think they are saying something to the ship. Mexique. That’s what it is called. Do the waves know that? Does the sea keep the names of all the ships?

Brief Synopsis: The story of one ship filled with 457 children of Spanish Republicans in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the Spanish Civil War;
  • Have you ever traveled anywhere without your parents or siblings? How did you feel?
  • Learn about Spain and Mexico;
  • Learn more about the Mexique and the Spanish Civil War in the Afterword.

Why I Like this Book:

In sparse, poetic language, told from the viewpoint of one of the children on the boat, Ferrada relays the story of the departure of the refugee ship Mexique from Europe and its arrival in Mexico.

The children aboard were the offspring of Spanish Republicans who sought a place of safety for them to wait out the few months of a war about which many of us know little, if anything. But that war, readers learn in the Afterword, lasted longer than a few months. General Franco and his followers won that war, Spain was left hungry and in ruins, and the Spanish Republicans were persecuted by the victors. World War II quickly followed the Spanish Civil War. Afterwards, General Franco continued to rule with an iron fist until the 1970s. Many of the Mexique’s passengers never returned to Spain.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Thankfully, this picture book ends with the arrival of the children in Mexico, a place, as I mentioned above, that many of us in the United States generally don’t view as a place of refuge. During the journey, older girls befriended younger children, becoming the “sisters we didn’t have before.” The children sang, played at being soldiers, cried, and imagined where they were going. White handkerchiefs that looked “like stars or flowers” waving in the wind greeted the children. The children brought “the war in our suitcases”. But the story ends on a hopeful note, with those children still believing it would be only three or four months until their return to their families in Spain, like “summer vacation, only longer.”

Many of Penyas’ primarily black-and-white illustrations appear as panels, graphic-novel style, often across wordless two-page spreads. Several of the more difficult scenes, like leaving family and friends, scenes of war, and scenes of the difficult crossing, appear only in the illustrations.

Because Mexique ends on a hopeful note, because it illuminates a war and a period of history about which many of us know little, and because it highlights the generosity of our neighbors to the south and offers a new perspective for many about Mexico, I think this is an important picture book for classroom and home reading.

A Note about Craft:

The story of over 400 children leaving their homes and relatives behind is a difficult topic to share with children. But by focusing on the passengers of one ship and by using first person point-of-view, I think Ferrado helps readers empathize with the young refugees and eperience the hope they felt when they reached Mexico.

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!

PPBF – The Doll

Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a gift upon arrival after a long journey? I think everyone appreciates that kindness, including the characters in today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: The Doll

Written By: Nhung N. Tran-Davies

Illustrated By: Ravy Puth

Publisher/Date: Second Story Press/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: refugees, kindness, paying it forward

Opening:

Long ago, in a nearby land, there was a young girl whose eyes were deep-ocean blue, whose dimples twinkled like bright mischievous stars.

She was waiting.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl is welcomed to a new land with the gift of a doll, and then, as an adult, she welcomes another young refugee with that same doll.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you ever received a special gift? How did you feel? Draw a picture of that gift or write a thank you note to the giver;
  • The author arrived as a refugee from Vietnam. Learn more about that country;
  • The new arrival fled conflict in Syria. Discover more about Syria (information is all pre-war).

Why I Like this Book:

Based on the author’s own experiences as a Boat Person arriving in Canada from Vietnam, The Doll showcases two acts of kindness separated by decades.

When a young stranger gives a doll to a newly-arrived refugee, the girl feels welcome in her new home. Years later, after reaching adulthood and becoming a doctor, that refugee learns about the conflict in Syria and the suffering of the people there. She remembers how she felt fleeing Vietnam and arriving, with almost nothing, to Canada. She also remembers the kindness of a young Canadian who welcomed her with that special gift, and pays that gift forward, by regifting the doll.

I love how one gift changed the outlook and life of the unnamed main character, as she settled into her adopted country and grew up to become a doctor. I also love how such a kid-friendly object, the doll, symbolizes the kindness shown the main character and that she passes that gift along to a new refugee years later.

I think The Doll is a wonderful new picture book to share with children to show them the enduring power of one act of kindness.

A Note about Craft:

As noted above, The Doll is based on a true story, on events that the author experienced personally. Because she remembered her flight from Vietnam and the welcoming gift that greeted her upon arrival in Canada, I think Tran-Davies is able to demonstrate empathy in a particularly kid-friendly way.

Interestingly, Tran-Davies begins her story not from the perspective of the main character who receives the doll, but on the giver. She then recounts the main character’s gift to the new refugee decades later using parallel structure and even similar words. Also interestingly, the story takes place over decades, something that Tran-Davies manages by, I think, focusing on the two similar gifting scenes.

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!

PPBF – Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued

Regular readers know that I’ve read, and reviewed, several picture books by the author/illustrator of today’s Perfect Picture Book. So when I saw he had released a new picture book about such a difficult, but important, topic, you know I had to find and review it!

Title: Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued

Written & Illustrated By: Peter Sís

Publisher/Date: Norton Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 6-8

Themes/Topics: non-fiction, Holocaust, heroes, refugees

Opening:

Nicky was born in 1909, into a century full of promise.

Brief Synopsis: The story of a young Englishman and the 669 Jewish children he helped transport to England from Prague during World War II.

Links to Resources:

  • Read the Author’s Note about Nicholas Winton, how Sís learned of the “Winton Train” and about Vera Diamantova, one of the rescued children;
  • Learn about the Czech Republic, part of the former Czechoslovakia, where much of this story takes place;
  • Have you ever journeyed by train? Where did you travel & what did you see? Draw a picture of something you saw on your journey.

Why I Like this Book:

In lyrical language and with gorgeously detailed illustrations, Sís recounts the stories of two people whose lives intersected during World War II. Nicky, readers learn, grew up in England, and as a young man journeyed to Prague to meet a friend on vacation. While there, he realized the plight of young Jewish children, and used grit, determination, and even some of his own funds, to arrange trains to England and find foster families there. Vera, one of those children, “wrote in her diary every day” about her experiences in England.

In all, Nicky managed to fill 8 trains with 669 children and quietly ferry them from Prague, by then controlled by the Nazis, to London in 1939. A two-page spread filled with an illustration of 8 trains is powerful testimony to the many lives he helped save.

A modest hero who, in his own words, “did not face any danger,” and “only saw what needed to be done”, Nicky packed away the records of these children and never told anyone, not even his family, about these actions during the war. As the story ends, readers learn that this quiet hero and the now-grown children were reunited many years after the war.

Not only is Nicky and Vera a true story, but it’s one that introduces children to a type of hero different than the rampaging Super Heroes of comics and movies. Readers learn that heroes, like Nicky, can be quiet and unassuming, who see a wrong and use their time and talents for the greater good, to help as many people as possible.

An internationally renowned artist and illustrator, Sís fills the pages with detailed images of his native Czechoslovakia, the journey to England, and the reunion with several of the children in England.

A Note about Craft:

How do you craft a picture book for young children about an extremely difficult topic, the Holocaust, featuring an adult protagonist? Sís accomplishes this feat by introducing the quiet hero in infancy, spending a few spreads recounting his childhood, and then once he reaches adulthood, Sís introduces one of the young beneficiaries of Nicky’s heroism and tells her story. By focusing on both the hero and one of those saved, I think Sís makes it easier for children to empathize with those who Nicky saved and better understand the importance of this quiet hero’s actions. Note, too, that Sís refers to Nicholas Winton not by his last name, but by a child-friendly nickname, which, I think, makes him seem more childlike to readers. At 64 pages, Nicky and Vera is longer than the typical picture book, but I can’t imagine telling this story in fewer spreads.

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!

PPBF – The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story

I’m sticking with the theme of boats, as I think summer is the perfect time to read about them. I hope you agree!

Title: The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story

Written & Illustrated By: Thao Lam

Publisher/Date: Owlkids Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes/Topics: refugees, journey, Vietnam, ants, wordless, kindness

Opening: n/a

Brief Synopsis: A wordless picture book recounting an escape from Vietnam.

Links to Resources:

  • Tell a story about your family or an adventure you’ve had using only pictures;
  • Learn about the Southeast Asian country of Vietnam;
  • Watch Lam’s YouTube video about the making of The Paper Boat and check out the Author’s Note;
  • Make your own paper boat.

Why I Like this Book:

In this wordless picture book, Lam recounts a story handed down by her mother depicting the family’s journey from Vietnam. In the first frames of the story, ants crawl among family treasures and attack food set out on a table. A young girl sees the ants drowning in soup, and she rescues them.

As symbols of war proliferate outside the family’s home, the girl and her parents flee first to the safety of tall grasses, and then, following a trail of ants, to a boat. Before departing in that boat, the girl and her mother construct a paper boat to save the ants who helped them find the sea.

Leaving one’s homeland to seek safety is difficult for children to understand. And depicting the horrors of a sea journey isn’t easy in a picture book. But by focusing on the kindnesses shown by the young girl and by the grateful ants, Lam makes the topic more kid-friendly. In addition, rather than portraying the humans’ journey in the crowded refugee boat, Lam instead focused on the ants’ journey in the paper boat, before returning, at the end of the story, to a reunion of the ants with the young girl and her family in their new home, safe from the soldiers of their homeland.

I especially love the last spread, that shows the family that fled Vietnam in one apartment surrounded by other apartments filled with many multicultural families.

Lam’s colorful cut-paper collages include so many rich details. The Paper Boat will be a wonderful addition to school and home libraries that is sure to prompt many discussions about why families flee their homelands, how they journeyed to their new homes, and what awaits them there.

A Note about Craft:

I don’t often review wordless picture books as I find that I often need text to follow the storyline. But Lam’s visual narrative, arranged in graphic-novel style with several vignettes to a page, reads like a film, unfolding seamlessly. And I think this particular story works better as a wordless one given the many questions the subject matter undoubtedly will raise in young readers.

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!

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!

PPBF – Salma the Syrian Chef

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been cooking, and eating, way too much these past few holiday weeks. But while I was visiting my daughter recently, I perused her copy of The Immigrant Cookbook, which has inspired me to try some healthy, new-to-me recipes. After reading today’s Perfect Picture Book, I think I’ve found another new recipe to ring in the new decade, too.

Title: Salma the Syrian Chef

Written By: Danny Ramadan

Illustrated By: Anna Bron

Publisher/Date: Annick Press/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: cooking, recipe, Syria, refugees, home

Opening:

Salma watches the Vancouver rain from her apartment window in the Welcome Center. It’s different than the sunny days back in Syria.

She still can’t pronounce “Vancouver,” but her friends tell her that her ways of saying it are more fun.

Brief Synopsis: To cheer up her mother, Salma, a young Syrian refugee living in Vancouver, Canada, decides to make a beloved Syrian dish with the help of friends from the Welcome Center.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite food that reminds you of a special place or person? With the help of an adult, try preparing it for family or friends;
  • Salma prepares foul shami (pronounced “fool shammy”), fava beans prepared in the style eaten in Damascus, Syria. Check out the recipe;
  • Salma originally lived in Damascus, Syria; learn more about this ancient city.

Why I Like this Book:

In Salma the Syrian Chef, Salma, a young Syrian refugee, notices that her mother has stopped smiling. After numerous attempts to cheer her mother up and make their adopted city of Vancouver feel more like home, including drawing pictures, telling jokes, and jumping out from a hiding spot to surprise Mama, Salma thinks about what may be making her Mama sad: they no longer are in their home, and Papa isn’t with them. Salma realizes that she can’t change either of those by herself, but she can make Mama a favorite food from home.

I love how Salma realizes that her Mama is sad, that she determines to cheer her up, and that she understands that a favorite food from home can brighten someone’s day. As a young child, though, Salma isn’t able to shop and cook by herself. Other adults and children at an immigrant Welcome Center rally to help her, showing how important a new community can be to help refugees and other immigrants resettle.

I think children reading Salma the Syrian Chef will enjoy this story, will empathize with children, like Salma, who are struggling to resettle in a foreign land, and will learn that small actions, like cooking a favorite recipe or helping someone else do so, will, like raindrops in a puddle, spread through a community to cheer everyone.

Bron’s soft palette of beiges and browns from the Syrian desert and the grays and blues of often-rainy Vancouver effectively show the dichotomy of these two places. I especially enjoyed the tiled frames that appear on most spreads.

A Note about Craft:

In Salma the Syrian Chef, Ramadan presents a classic, kid-friendly problem for the main character, Salma: cheering up her mother who is sad to be away from home and so far from Salma’s Papa. The solution, cooking her Mama’s favorite dish, isn’t something that Salma can do by herself, however, as she needs help finding the recipe, sourcing some of the ingredients, and chopping vegetables. Although a picture book main character should solve her or his own problem, by presenting a solution that requires community involvement, I think Ramadan adds an important layer to this story and strengthens its impact.

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!

PPBF – Story Boat

I love the work of both the author and illustrator of today’s Perfect Picture Book. And as we journey towards a new year ahead, what could be better than a story about a journey towards a new home.

Title: Story Boat

Written By: Kyo Maclear

Illustrated By: Rashin Kheiriyeh

Publisher/Date: Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: refugees, migration, journey, imagination

Opening:

Here we are.

What’s that? Well, here is…

Here is just here.

Brief Synopsis:

A young girl creates a story from everyday objects for her younger brother as they and their family journey to a new home.

Links to Resources:

  • The unnamed narrator and her brother have left their home to journey to another one. What would you bring with you if you had to leave your home?
  • Find a few common objects in your home, like a bowl or plate, a blanket or pillow, or a book. What else could these things be or become? Perhaps a flying saucer? A billowing cloud? A bird that takes flight?
  • Check out the Educator’s Guide for more activity ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

In lyrical language and soft illustrations, two children journey with their family from an unnamed home to a new land. In trying to answer her younger brother’s questions about where they are, where they are going, and where “home” is, the narrator weaves a story from everyday objects that accompany them – the cup from which they drink is a boat to carry them towards their destination. A soft blanket covers them at night and acts as a sail for their boat. A bright light becomes a lighthouse, illuminating their journey. And a story helps buoy them as they await the journey’s end and the promise of a new home.

With its focus on imaginative storytelling and everyday objects, Story Boat is a hope-filled addition to the picture books portraying the refugee experience. There’s no mention of the horrors that the family left, and no sense of an unwelcoming reception at their new home. This story is filled with objects and community scenes that will resonate with young children, and that, I think, will help readers empathize with these young refugees.

A Note about Craft:

Maclear uses first-person point of view to tell this story, which helps readers journey along with the children and empathize with them. Who hasn’t wondered at some point where they are and what being “here” really means?

But while the point of view draws the reader into the story, the focus on the children’s storytelling and imagination helps keep the story hope-filled. It also adds an element of fantasy that renders this difficult topic more kid-friendly.

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!

PPBF – Acknowledges Juneteenth and World Refugee Day 2020

I perused my bookshelves to choose a Perfect Picture Book for today, which was no small feat, as our local library hasn’t reopened yet and even upon reopening, it’s unclear if interlibrary loans will be possible. But even if I had a pile of books at hand, it’s clear that any book I’d choose to review today would need to be special.

To honor the significance of Juneteenth and support and further the movement to fight systemic racism taking place in my local community, our country, and in many parts of the world, while not forgetting to mark World Refugee Day, and the ongoing, and even worsening, plight of the many refugees in the world – I frankly couldn’t choose just one picture book. I add to that the importance of ensuring that our children acquire the passion and tools to advocate for justice, to empathize with others, and to promote peace.

So, dear readers, instead of just one Perfect Picture Book today, I want to share a few picture books that I’ve read and reviewed in the past year, and that, I believe, are resources for some, but by no means all, of the momentous issues facing our children today. Please share some of the picture books that speak to you on these issues in the comments.

Dare

 

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

 

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation

 The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

Wherever I Go

Yusra Swims

 

Check out the other great picture books featured at Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list, to which this post also will be linked.

 

Perfect Pairing Observes Refugee Week 2020

This Saturday, 20 June 2020, is the United Nations’ World Refugee Day 2020, and in the United Kingdom and other countries, this week is Refugee Week, a “festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees.” As regular readers know, I read, and review, many picture books about the refugee experience. I’m happy to pair two of these recent books this week.

Boundless Sky

Author: Amanda Addison

Illustrator: Manuela Adreani

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Ages: 4-6

Themes: migration, birds, refugees, welcoming, friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nobody knew, nobody dreamed, nobody even considered the possibility that a bird that fits in your hand might fly halfway around the world looking for a place to nest . . . or that a young girl from northern Africa might flee halfway around the world looking for safety. This is the story of Bird. This is the story of Leila. This is the story of a chance encounter and a long journey home.

Read my review.

Wherever I Go

Author: Mary Wagley Copp

Illustrator: Munir D. Mohammed

Publisher/date: Atheneum Books for Young Children, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishing/2020

Ages: 6-9

Themes: refugee, resilience, imagination, resettlement

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A hopeful and timely picture book about a spirited little girl living in a refugee camp.

Of all her friends, Abia has been at the Shimelba Refugee Camp the longest—seven years, four months, and sixteen days. Papa says that’s too long and they need a forever home. Until then, though, Abia has something important to do. Be a queen.

Sometimes she’s a noisy queen, banging on her drum as she and Mama wait in the long line for rice to cook for dinner. Sometimes she’s a quiet queen, cuddling her baby cousin to sleep while Auntie is away collecting firewood. And sometimes, when Papa talks hopefully of their future, forever home, Abia is a little nervous. Forever homes are in strange and faraway places—will she still be a queen?

Filled with hope, love, and respect, Wherever I Go is a timely tribute to the strength and courage of refugees around the world.

Read my review.

I paired these books because, though they differ in their storytelling techniques, and though neither sugarcoats the refugee experience, both leave the reader feeling hopeful about the fates of the refugees highlighted. In Boundless Sky, Addison parallels the migration of a bird with the journey of young Leila who migrates from Africa to Britain. In Wherever I Go, Wagley Copp reminds readers that refugees, like the narrator, Abia, are survivors who will enrich the community where they eventually settle.

Looking for similar reads? See The Unexpected Friend, about a young Rohingya refugee, and Yusra Swims, about a refugee who competed in the Olympics.

 

 

PPBF – Boundless Sky

In these days of staying at home, I think many of us are reading more to escape confinement. And when I find a book that involves travel, and especially one, like today’s featured picture book, that involves a great journey through the skies, I know that it must be a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Boundless Sky

Written By: Amanda Addison

Illustrated By: Manuela Adreani

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: migration, birds, refugees, welcoming, friendship

Opening:

Nobody knew, nobody dreamed, nobody even considered the possibility that a bird which fits in your hand might fly halfway round the world—and back again.

Brief Synopsis:

A tiny swallow migrates from the United Kingdom to southern Africa, and back, as a young girl leaves her African home to flee to safety in the United Kingdom.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about English swallows, the bird featured in this story;
  • Swallows fly great distances in an annual migration. What other animals migrate? Why do you think certain animals migrate? Draw a picture of an animal that migrates;
  • Check out the Teaching Resources (link near bottom of the page).

Why I Like this Book:

In Boundless Sky, author Amanda Addison reminds readers that one sky unites birds, animals, and people across this vast world. The initial focus is on Bird, a small English swallow that is about to embark on a journey from the northern part of the northern hemisphere across vast and varied landmasses and waters to arrive, and winter, in the southern part of the southern hemisphere in Africa.

Midway through her flight, as she was crossing a great desert, “the hardest part of the journey”, Bird reached an oasis, a place of refuge where Leila, a young girl, welcomed her with a drink of life-giving water.

But on the return journey, Bird discovers that Leila has disappeared. Thirsty, Bird flew on, to fly, once more, across vast waters, now stormy, and landmasses, to return home. There, she discovers that a familiar friend has also crossed stormy seas and found a new home.

I think even young children will enjoy following along on Bird’s journey, even if they don’t understand that Boundless Sky is the story of parallel journeys. Older children can delve deeper into the topic of migration – of birds, other animals, and people, like Leila, who risk all to seek safety and friendship in a new home.

I found Adreani’s soft pencil palette of blues and beiges to be calming and peaceful, the perfect accompaniment to this story of hope and friendship.

A Note about Craft:

Regular readers know that I’ve read, and reviewed, many picture books about refugees. Although many of these end on a welcoming note, I’m not sure any draw the parallel between animal or bird migration and human migration. Drawing this parallel enables Boundless Sky to function on multiple layers and to be of interest to children older than the target age range.

In addition to the parallel journey recounted in Boundless Sky, I found the choice of Leila’s original home, an oasis, to be particularly poignant. I think most of us think of an oasis as a life-giving island in a sea of desert. But here, the oasis presumably has not protected Leila, which, I think, adds a further layer to this story.

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!