June 14th -20th is Refugee Week, and there are some truly amazing books to help us travel in their shoes, and understand why people “choose” to travel thousands of miles to find a safe place to call home.
Starting off with picture books that are brilliant for sharing to open discussions, The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb is a powerful and necessary picture book – the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known. Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey – all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious…
Next up is The Journey by Francesca Sanna. With haunting echoes of the refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
And the last picture book is an incredibly powerful, wordless book more suitable for older readers. Migrants by Issa Watanabe. narrates the journey of a group of animals leaving a leafless forest. Borders must be crossed, sacrifices made, loved ones left behind. Issa Watanabe takes extraordinary care to show the individuality and humanity of each migrant through the detailed patterns on their clothing, their care of each other as they set up camp, the symbol of the blue ibis showing the connection between past and future, life and death.
For older children who are ready to explore this topic on their own, I have chosen Child I by Steve Tasane (Year 4+), and a previous Coventry Inspiration Book Award Winner – Looking At The Stars by Jo Cotterill (Year 6+).
Child I tells the story of a group of undocumented children with letters for names who are stuck living in a refugee camp, with stories to tell but no papers to prove them. As they try to forge a new family amongst themselves, they also long to keep memories of their old identities alive. Will they be heard and believed? And what will happen to them if they aren’t? An piece of writing that will enchant and intrigue children; and no doubt encourage questions and build empathy.
Looking At The Stars is a stunning story that will stay with you for a long time after finishing the final page. What if the only thing you had left were the stories in your head? Amina’s homeland has been ravaged by war, and her family is devastated… The women of the family – Amina, her two sisters and their mother – have no choice but to leave their home town, along with thousands of others, and head for a refugee camp. But there are even more challenges ahead… Set in a fictional war torn country, Looking At The Stars is heart-breaking, yet hopeful and very hard hitting. There are a number of upsetting scenes in this story which places it as very firmly Year 6 and above.