In 2016, Nicola Davies wrote a poem in response to the UK government’s refusal to give sanctuary to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. That poem is the basis of this incredibly powerful picture book, accompanied by hauntingly beautiful illustrations by Rebecca Cobb, describing the traumatic journey of a young girl fleeing a war zone told in the girl’s own words.
The girl enjoys a happy family and school life until life changes dramatically when war arrives ‘just like a spattering of hail, a voice of thunder…”. Her town is in ruins and her home and family are gone. She is ‘ragged, bloody, all alone’. She flees with other refugees in a desperate bid to find safety and comfort, by foot, by vehicle and then across the water. But the war has followed her on her long journey – it is ‘underneath her skin’ and has ‘taken possession of her heart’; it is in the unsmiling faces of the people who turn away from her on the streets.
The girl peers in at the window of a school and sees happy children, singing and drawing – a window into her previous life which has been ripped from her. The teacher turns her away as there is no chair for her to sit on. Her utter desolation and loss of hope is portrayed in a stunning illustration of the small girl curled up alone on the floor of a bleak wooden hut, sobbing into a dirty blanket, accompanied by the words ‘it seemed the war had taken all the world and all the people in it’. At her darkest hour, hope and kindness returns to her in the form of a small boy carrying a chair. He and his friends have brought them to the camp ‘so all the children there can go to school’.
Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb have created a masterpiece; a picture book that is engaging and hopeful but doesn’t shy away from the stark realities of war and migration. The subject matter may be harrowing for young children so we would suggest this is read with an adult on hand to give guidance and extra support where necessary.
The book is endorsed by Amnesty International and some of the proceeds from book sales are donated to Help Refugees.