Tag Archives: Refugees

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!

PPBF – Sea Prayer

The news, tragically, continues to be dominated by stories of refugees, whether those fleeing violence, those seeking better lives for themselves or for their children, or those displaced by climate change. Today’s Perfect Picture Book features a pair of refugees with prayers for a better life.

Title: Sea Prayer

Written By: Khaled Hosseini

Illustrated By: Dan Williams

Publisher/Date: Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2018

Suitable for Ages: 8 and up

Themes/Topics: refugees, family, Syria

Opening:

My dear Marwan, in the long summers of childhood, when I was a boy the age you are now, your uncles and I spread our mattress on the roof of your grandfather’s farmhouse outside of Homs.

Brief Synopsis: A father addresses his sleeping son to share his memories of the life they’re leaving in Syria and his hopes for a future free of conflict.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • If you were going on a journey, what would you bring? Choose three favorite toys or books that you’d bring along.

Why I Like this Book:

With lyrical, heartfelt text, an unnamed father addresses his young son, as the pair await a boat to flee from the conflict in Syria. First recalling his hometown of Homs, as it was before the war and as he believes his son will never experience it, the father then anticipates the future, starting with the sea voyage itself. Like parents everywhere trying to protect their children from fear, Marwan’s father downplays the dangers of the journey, and he pledges to protect Marwan. The story ends as the father prays that the sea realizes how precious a cargo is about to embark. And there the story ends, leaving the reader to hope, and pray, that the pair arrive safely on a welcoming shore, and that, at some future time, they are able to return to a Homs free from war.

Although Sea Prayer clearly is targeted to an older audience, I think it’s a wonderful way to build understanding and empathy for the plight of refugees, whether, as here, they are fleeing conflict, or whether they’re forced to flee due to economic need or climate change.

Williams’ haunting watercolors are a perfect accompaniment to Hosseini’s emotional text. The image of a small, crowded dingy on roiling seas is particularly effective.

A Note about Craft:

In an end note, Hosseini shares that he was inspired to write Sea Prayer in response to the death of Alan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy who drowned enroute to Europe in 2015 and whose photograph on the beach appeared worldwide. From this inspiration, Hosseini, an Afghan and author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns who has spent much of his life in the United States, penned this story. He utilizes first-person point-of-view which draws the reader into the scene, encouraging us to hope, and pray, that the unnamed father’s prayer is answered and that young Marwan does not suffer the fate of Alan Kurdi and so many other children and adults.

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 – Refugees and Migrants

This topics of today’s Perfect Picture Book continues to dominate the news, so a resource for parents and teachers to discuss them will be welcome, I’m sure!

Title: Refugees and Migrants, part of the Children in Our World series

Written By: Ceri Roberts

Illustrated By: Hanane Kai

Publisher/Date: Wayland, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Books/2018

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: refugees, migrants, non-fiction

Opening:

  • Our home is the place where we spend time with the people we love, eat our favourite food, play with toys, and sleep in a warm bed.

Brief Synopsis: An exploration of refugees and migrants

Links to Resources:

  • Refugees and migrants travel in many different ways from their home country to a new country. Draw a picture showing one or more ways to travel.
  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • Choose three favorite toys or books that you’d bring on a journey;
  • Explore animal migration; a great place to start is Circle, reviewed here in 2016, and including several migration-related activitivities.

Why I Like this Book:

With straightforward, age-appropriate text, Roberts handles questions that many adults have trouble answering about who the refugees and migrants are, where they come from and where they journey to, why they make these journeys, and what it means to seek, and be granted, asylum. Perhaps most importantly, Roberts includes some ideas on what kids can do to help refugees.

Kai’s soft, muted illustrations provide a sensitive glimpse into the difficult lives of refugees and migrants and will, I think, help children empathize with them.

With Index, Glossary, and Find Out More sections, I think Refugees and Migrants would be a terrific addition to school and home libraries. Refugees and Migrants is part of a series that also addresses global conflict, poverty and hunger, and racism and intolerance.

A Note about Craft:

Refugees and Migrants is a straight-forward, non-fiction picture book targeted to the upper range of the picture book audience. By not focusing on a single person with a unique set of circumstances, I think Roberts enables children to think about the problem as a whole, rather than a problem that only affects a few children from one or two locations.

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

PPBF – Lubna and Pebble

Regular readers know that I’ve read and reviewed many picture books from the past few years that recount the refugee experience. So when I saw reference in a recent Kidlit Frenzy post to one I hadn’t read yet, you can guess what I immediately did…

Title: Lubna and Pebble

Written By: Wendy Meddour

Illustrated By: Daniel Egnéus

Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: refugees; coping; friendship

Opening:

Lubna’s best friend was a pebble. It was shiny and smooth and gray.

Brief Synopsis: When a young girl and her father arrive in a tent city, the girl finds a pebble which helps her adjust to life in a strange location, far from the life and family she had known.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a beloved stuffed animal, pet or other favorite object? What do you like to do with that pet or thing? How is your pet or favorite thing the same as or different from Pebble?
  • Try making Taino petroglyphs, and learn about this ancient Caribbean artform;
  • Explore rock and pebble crafts and try making some of your own.

Why I Like this Book:

Lubna and Pebble is a poignant new addition to the growing array of picture books that explore the refugee experience. Lubna’s story begins as she and Daddy land on a beach at night. Meddour leaves unstated the location of that beach, the origin of the ship, the reason why Lubna and Daddy left, and the fate of other family members. Instead, Meddour focuses on Pebble – the first thing Lubna finds and, along with her Daddy’s hand, something that Lubna knows would “keep her safe” at the refugee camp. Like a good friend, “Pebble always listened to her stories” about her brothers, home and war. “Pebble always smiled when she felt scared.” In short, Pebble was her “best friend”.

When a new boy arrives at the camp with “no words”, just “blinks and sneezes and stares”, Lubna knows what to do: she introduces him to Pebble, who elicits a smile from Amir. Lubna also knows what to do when she learns that she and Daddy have found a new home which means leaving Amir. I won’t spoil the ending, except to share that Lubna finds a way to comfort Amir, as only a friend can.

I really appreciate Meddour’s exploration of how a child who has lost almost everyone and everything finds comfort in an object, even a hard object like a pebble. I can envision many interesting conversations with even young children about what they find comforting and/or joyful, and what it means to find a true friend.

A Note about Craft:

Even before I knew the topic of today’s Perfect Picture Book or had seen the cover, I knew from the title that I had to read it, as I just had to know what, or who, Pebble was and what type of person, pet or object would be named “Pebble”. By personifying an object – using the object name as a proper name (the pebble v Pebble) and painting on a smile, Meddour makes Pebble into a character, encouraging readers to view Pebble as Lubna does.

I think it’s also interesting that Pebble is a new object, or friend, rather than a comforting relic from Lubna’s past. Doing this, I think, shows a break from the past, a new beginning that, hopefully, will help Lubna separate from the horrors she has experienced. And a pebble, unlike a rock or a stone, reminds me of stones I find at the beach, that are tossed around in the sea, tumbled until smooth, and cleansed of their hard-edged past, as, hopefully, the young refugees, Lubna and Amir, will be.

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 – My Name is Not Refugee

According to news reports I’ve read, more travelers will be on the road and in the skies in the US than ever before this Thanksgiving weekend, traveling to celebrate the holiday with family and friends. But as we celebrate, I think it’s important to remember those that travel for different reasons, including the boy and his mother in today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: My Name is Not Refugee

Written & Illustrated By:  Kate Milner

Publisher/Date: The Bucket List (an imprint of Barrington Stoke/2017)

Suitable for Ages: 5 and under

Themes/Topics: refugees; moving; empathy

Opening:

We have to leave this town, my mother told me, it’s not safe for us, she said. Shall I tell you what it will be like?

Brief Synopsis: Step by step, a mother explains to her young son that they are leaving the home they know because it isn’t safe and traveling to a new place where they’ll have to learn a new language, eat different foods, and otherwise adapt.

Links to Resources:

  • Describe or draw a journey or walk you’ve taken;
  • Find many more activities in the Teacher Toolkit;
  • Try one or more of the 20 Simple Acts to learn more about refugees or help one or more of them feel welcome in your school or community.

Why I Like this Book:

In simple, child-friendly sentences, a mother explains to her young son their upcoming journey and what they may find in their new home. Unlike many picture books about the refugee experience, Milner mentions and shows the unsafe home the pair leave, but there is no mention of death, soldiers or bombs. She thus leaves it to a child’s imagination, or the answer of a caregiver or teacher, to explain why there’s no running water and why there’s garbage everywhere. The adult reading with a child then can tailor the answer to the comprehension level of that child.

In addition to his mother’s reassurances, the young boy finds comfort in a stuffed animal that he carries in most spreads. I think younger children will relate to this, and find it reassuring as well. For the youngest of listeners, they may even want to search the pages to find the beloved item.

On the right-side page of most spreads, Milner addresses the reader, asking direct questions that are highlighted in blue boxes. From “what would you take,” to “how far could you walk,” and “what is the weirdest food you have ever eaten,” Milner invites readers to journey along with the unnamed refugees, to better understand their journeys and build empathy.

Milner uses pencil drawings and lots of white space to engage readers in the refugee experience. And by not showing a specific region or including details that could indicate that the refugees practice a particular religion, she universalizes the experience: anyone could be a refugee.

A Note about Craft:

Although the main character is a child, he relates the story as told to him by his mother. The reader thus experiences the journey through the mother’s perspective, too, which, in my mind, provided a reassurance missing from many refugee stories.

The inclusion of direct questions helps an adult reader tailor story-time to particular children, I think. To stick to the narrative, an adult reading aloud can skip a question or all questions, or s/he can stop and explore the main character’s experiences and discover how they may relate to the experiences of children listening.

My Name is Not Refugee is the winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize, which “celebrates the most exciting newcomer to children’s book illustration.” Milner won the V&A Student Illustrator of the Year in 2016 for My Name is Not Refugee.

See more of Kate Milner’s work on her website. Read an interview with Milner about her reason for writing My Name is Not Refugee and learn about her illustration techniques at Library Mice.

Edinburg-based, independent publisher Barrington Stoke is the “home of super-readable books” and aims to publish books for children with dyslexia and reluctant readers.

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

 

PPBF – Marwan’s Journey

With the scent of holidays in the air, November always reminds me of journeys – those taken, to visit family and friends, and those yet to come. But as I reflect on these generally happy journeys in my own life, I can’t help but think of those people undertaking difficult journeys for other reasons, whether fleeing from violence or poverty or seeking a better life in some new location. Today’s Perfect Picture Book recounts the journey of one such child.mne_DE_Marwan's Journey_Cov_z_Layout 1

Title: Marwan’s Journey

Written By: Patricia de Arias

Illustrated By: Laura Borràs

Publisher/Date: minedition (Michael Neugebauer Publishing, Ltd)/2018 (first published in Spanish as El Camino de Marwan, Amanuta, Chile/2016)

Suitable for Ages: 5-7 (or older)

Themes/Topics: refugees; war; courage; hope

Opening:

I take giant steps even though I am small. One, two, three…crossing the desert.

Brief Synopsis: When the cold darkness of war arrives at Marwan’s house, he flees on foot, joining a caravan of refugees, but always remembering happy times with his family and dreaming of a peaceful future, of returning to his homeland.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • If you were going on a journey, what would you bring? Choose three favorite toys or books that you’d bring along;
  • Marwan travels mainly on foot. Think of other ways that people travel, and draw a picture of your favorite way to travel.

Why I Like this Book:

With its young, named main character traveling by foot to escape war, Marwan’s Journey is a haunting window into the refugee experience. Although the setting is not named, the reader learns that Marwan crosses a desert and reaches a border with the sea. And although he seemingly travels without parents or other relatives, it’s clear that Marwan is one of many undertaking this journey.

Told in sparse, lyrical prose, Marwan’s Journey enables the reader to walk along with Marwan, as he places one foot in front of the other, “one, two, three,” a “line of humans like ants crossing the desert”. He doesn’t look back, but he knows that, without hesitation, one day, he will return to “plant a garden with my hands, full of flowers and hope.”

With its glimpses of happy memories, its focus on the act of traveling, and its promise of a hopeful future, I think de Arias presents a believable portrait of a child refugee while not focusing too much on issues that would be difficult for children.

Borràs’ ink and color-washed illustrations have a child-like quality, at times seeming even surrealistic. Utilizing primarily sepia tones as Marwan crosses the desert, she adds pops of color as he remembers life before the war and as he looks forward to a life back in his homeland and prays “that the night never, never, never goes so dark again.”

A Note about Craft:

Like most of the refugee picture books, de Arias utilizes first-person point-of-view which renders the narrator’s experience more immediate. Unlike refugee stories such as Francesca Sanna’s The Journey or Nicola Davies’ The Day War Came, de Arias names the narrator, choosing a male name of Arabic origin that means “flint stone,” a stone used to start fires.

Interestingly, de Arias includes a flashback to life before the conflict which, while providing relief from the tedium of the long march, may be difficult for younger children to follow and is not a technique usually found in picture books.

Per the jacket cover, de Arias is a Spaniard currently residing in Brazil, where she has published a number of children’s books.

Borràs is an “internationally acclaimed illustrator who has published numerous books in many countries”.

minedition publishes picture books of the highest quality that “open the door to the world” for children….After 10 years with the Swiss Nord Sud Publishing, minedition – michael neugebauer edition – was founded 2004, first as an imprint with Penguin and now independent and distributed in North America by IPG.”

Marwan’s Journey received a Special Mention at the Bologna Ragazzi Awards in 2017 and a starred review in Kirkus.

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

PPBF – The Day War Came

As regular readers know, I’ve reviewed many picture books about the refugee experience published in the past few years. For World Refugee Day earlier this week, I posted about some of the picture books I’ve reviewed about the refugee and migrant experience in the Americas. Because in some countries, refugee-focused events span an entire week (see Refugee Week 2018), I couldn’t help but continue the theme and post a newly-published book about a refugee, that is, in my mind, a Perfect Picture Book:

9781406376326Title: The Day War Came

Written By: Nicola Davies

Illustrated By: Rebecca Cobb

Publisher/date: Walker Books/June 2018

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: refugees; war; empathy; social activism; free verse poetry

Opening:

The day war came there were flowers on the window sill and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.

My mother made my breakfast, kissed my nose and walked with me to school.

Brief Synopsis:

When war arrives in the unnamed narrator’s town, she flees alone, but feels surrounded by war while a refugee, until the kindness of children enables her to experience some peace at last.

Links to Resources:

  • Draw a chair, perhaps like a favorite one from home or school. Does your picture have anyone sitting in the chair? Which do you like better – a picture of an empty chair or one with a friend or relative sitting in it?
  • The children in the narrator’s old and new schools are studying volcanos. Build a volcano;
  • The children in the narrator’s old and new schools draw birds. Why do you think birds are an important part of this story? Draw a favorite bird;
  • Try one or more of the 20 Simple Acts to learn more about refugees or to help them feel welcome in your school or community.

Why I Like this Book:

I don’t just like this book, I love it, as, in my mind, it captures the young refugee experience in its entirety. [Spoiler alert: despite reading many picture books about refugees, I cried when reading this one!]

In sparse, lyrical language, Davies captures a child’s heartbreak of being alone, of utter despair and desolation, not just as disaster strikes and rends life into a before and after, but as the young narrator searches for a new life in an unfamiliar land. Davies ends on a note of hope, not as the narrator arrives in this new country, but only when, at long last, she feels welcome there.

Several recent picture books capture the sense of loss when leaving a beloved homeland, like The Map of Good Memories. Others enable the reader to walk in the footsteps of those in flight, most notably The Journey and Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey. All end with hope of a new life, as in My Beautiful Birds.

What is hauntingly different with The Day War Came, is that the narrator is completely alone in her journey, with no parent, sibling, or even friend to cling to. We meet her as war obliterates her life in an instant: “war took everything, war took everyone.” We journey with her to what should be a safe place where, we’d like to believe, she will start to rebuild her life. Instead, though, she journeys and finds “war was in the way that doors shut when I came down the street.” Finding a school, she yearns to enter, but an unsmiling teacher explains,

There is no room for you, you see. There is no chair for you to sit on.

Linking the narrator’s experiences as war strikes to the hatred she encounters as a refugee will, I believe, cause readers to think how their actions affect refugees who may relocate to their communities and schools. This makes The Day War Came an important and timely book for classroom, church and family discussion.

Cobb’s illustrations are often two-page spreads, and they incorporate many grays depicting war and despair, interspersed with splashes of color. Like Davies’ text, the scenes are not geographically specific, which supports the sense of universality. They also appear, at times, to be drawn by a child, furthering Davies’ storytelling from the narrator’s point of view.9781406376326_INS_3-1024x430

A Note about Craft:

In many ways, war is almost a character in The Day War Came. I think Davies accomplishes this because, except in two instances late in the story, war appears without an article preceding it. Similar to death entering a home in Cry Heart, But Never Break, war accompanies the unnamed narrator on her journey, following her, invading her dreams, taking “possession of my heart.” That the story is told from first-person point of view and as the narrator is unnamed, bringing an “Everyman” feel to it, I think this encourages readers to think: how do my actions perpetuate war and hatred in the world? This hopefully encourages us to take the next step: to counter that hatred.

Davies utilizes several visual symbols that enable Cobb to expand on the story. In her old school, pictures of volcanos line the windows. In the new school, the children also learn about them. When war erupts, the fires in the city mimic volcanic explosions. The children at both schools draw birds – a symbol of flight. And the absence of a chair, like “no room at the inn,” resonates and provides a strong visual reminder of one step even a young child can take to welcome others. Check out the endpapers – a stunningly visual reminder of what one small action can accomplish.

Nicola Davies, an award-winning children’s author, originally published a version of The Day War Came in 2016 as a free verse poem in The Guardian newspaper, in reaction to the British government’s decision to turn 3,000 unaccompanied children away. See Davies’ blog post about writing the poem, publishing it, and the outpouring of illustrations of empty chairs that became the #3000chairs project on Twitter.

See more of Rebecca Cobb’s work here, and read an insightful interview with Cobb about the process of illustrating The Day War Came at Library Mice.

Walker Books is donating one pound from the sale of each book to helprefugees.org.

If you live in the US, The Day War Came is available now via The Book Depository, or Candlewick Press is publishing it in the US in September 2018.

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

Picture Books that Explore the Refugee and Migrant Experience in the Americas for World Refugee Day 2018

In honor of #WorldRefugeeDay2018 and in solidarity with the “20 people [who] leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror” every minute (according to the United Nations), I’m posting this list of several Picture Books that I’ve reviewed in the past few years that illuminate the plight of those who flee their homes to seek refuge and that give voice to children separated from their parents due to immigration issues.

The refugee crisis is global, and several empathy-building Picture Books explore the refugee experience. This list focuses primarily on the Americas, however, as the events on the US border are uppermost today on my mind, and, I believe, on the minds of many parents, teachers and children trying to make sense of a senseless situation. Note: all links are to my reviews, which include resources to explore and discuss these issues further.

Please share in the comments other picture books that you’re reading about the refugee and migrant experience.

9780525428091_p0_v1_s192x300Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation

Written By: Edwidge Danticat

Illustrated By: Leslie Staub

Publisher/date: Penguin Young Readers Group/2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Opening: “When Mama first goes away, what I miss most is the sound of her voice.”

Brief Synopsis: When Mama is arrested and held in a women’s correctional facility because she lacks the correct immigration papers, young Saya misses her terribly. Mama records stories from her native Haiti for Saya while Papa writes letters to politicians and the media without success. Saya also writes a story that Papa sends to the local media, and that leads, ultimately, to the resolution of the problem.

9781554988501_1024x1024Somos como las nubes, We Are Like the Clouds
Written By:
 Jorge Argueta

Pictures ByAlfonso Ruano

Translated By: Elisa Amado

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2016

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Opening:

Somos como las nubes

Elefantes, caballos, vaca, cuches,/ flores,/ballenas,/ pericos.

Somos como las nubes.

We Are Like the Clouds

Elephants, horses, cows, pigs,/ flowers,/ whales,/ parakeets.

We are like the clouds.

Brief Synopsis:

In this bilingual (Spanish and English) poetry collection, Argueta explores the hopes and fears that cause young people to leave Central America, the perils of the journey, and the arrival to the United States.

 

9781419709579_p0_v1_s192x300Migrant

Written By: José Manuel Mateo

Illustrated ByJavier Martínez Pedro

Translated By: Emmy Smith Ready

Publisher/date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/ 2014 (Mexican edition: Ediciones Tecolote/2011)

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Opening:

I used to play among the roosters and the pigs. The animals roamed free, because in the village there were no pens, nor walls between the houses. On one side of the village were the mountains; on the other side, the sea.

Brief SynopsisIn this bilingual (Spanish and English) picture book, a young boy recounts his journey with his mother and sister from a small village in Mexico to Los Angeles, after the men of the village, including his father, are forced to move to find work.

 

9781419705830_p0_v2_s192x300Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale

Written & Illustrated By: Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher/date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2013

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Opening:

One spring the rains did not come and the crops could not grow. So Papá Rabbit, Señor Ram, and other animals from the rancho set out north to find work in the great carrot and lettuce fields. There they could earn money for their families.

Brief Synopsis:

When Pancho Rabbit’s father is delayed on his return from the north, Pancho sets out to find him, “helped” by a coyote who befriends and guides him, until the food runs out.

 

9780888999757_p0_v1_s118x184Migrant

Written By: Maxine Trottier

Illustrated ByIsabelle Arsenault

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2011

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: Mennonites, Canada, Mexico, farming, migrant

Opening:

            There are times when Anna feels like a bird. It is the birds, after all, that fly north in the spring and south every fall, chasing the sun, following the warmth.

            Her family is a flock of geese eating its way there and back again.

Brief SynopsisMigrant is the story of Anna and her family, Mennonite farmers, who journey each summer to Canada to supplement their income by harvesting produce.

 

9780888995858_1024x1024Alfredito Flies Home

Written By: Jorge Argueta

Illustrated ByLuis Garay

Translated By:Elisa Amado

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2007

Suitable for Ages:4-9

Opening:

My name is Alfredo, just like my father, but everyone calls me Alfredito. I am as happy as a bird today because I’m going back home. Finally, after four whole years in San Francisco, my mother, Adela, my father, my grandmother Serve and I are going to climb on a plane tomorrow and fly back to El Salvador.

Brief Synopsis:

A young boy and his family who fled their home in El Salvador journey back to visit relatives and friends.

 

9781554987412_p0_v1_s192x300Two White Rabbits

Written By: Jairo Buitrago

Illustrated By: Rafael Yockteng

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-7 (per the publisher)

Opening:

When we travel, I count what I see. Five cows, four hens and one chucho, as my dad calls them.

Brief Synopsis: Like the two white rabbits of the title, a young girl and her father journey together trying to find a way to, and across, a border.

 

9781554518951_p0_v3_s192x300Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

Written By: Mary Beth Leatherdale

Illustrated ByEleanor Shakespeare

Publisher/date: Annick Press Ltd/2017

Suitable for Ages: 10-12

Opening:

At last, Ruth was free. She breathed a sigh of relief as she walked up the gangplank of the SS St. Louis. After trying to get out of Germany for two years, her family had finally secured passage on a ship headed to Havana, Cuba.

Brief SynopsisStormy Seas is a collection of five true stories about young people who fled their homelands by boat from World War II until today.