The story is told by a child, either the son or daughter in a family living in an unspecified city by the sea. Their lives are shattered by the outbreak of war, and their father is ‘taken’. Their mother, becoming increasingly concerned for their safety, makes the difficult decision to leave their home and head for a land far away. Leaving friends, pets and possessions behind, they embark on a dangerous escape across borders. When menacing border guards refuse to let them pass, they are forced to pay someone to smuggle them across in the dead of night. But this is not the end of their troubles: they face a long, overcrowded and hazardous sea journey, their anxieties eased a little only by sharing stories of hope with other refugees.
This powerful story about a family's forced migration to a new country gives children the chance to empathise with people in difficult circumstances. It promotes greater understanding and respect for those with different origins and cultures. Children who are refugees themselves may recognise something of their own story here.
This is an exquisitely illustrated picture book. Francesca Sanna has punctuated her beautiful colour palettes with stark black shapes to represent the threatening menace of war. Parallels are drawn between the family’s journey and those of migrating birds.
Endorsed by Amnesty International, the author describes this book as a collage of the personal stories and incredible strength of refugees.
The messages we found in this book:
- It can be unimaginably hard for refugees to leave their homes, friends and possessions behind, but sometimes they have no other choice.
- It is very difficult for parents as well as children (the illustrations show the mother crying while the children sleep; she keeps a brave face for them at other times).
- Adults must sometimes take risks if they believe it is ultimately in the best interests of their family.
- Going to a new, unfamiliar place can be frightening, and sometimes strangers are unsympathetic.
- Refugees often leave their homes because they have no other way to ensure that they are safe.
- Families can be torn apart by conflicts and political turmoil.
- The mother and children show great courage and perseverance. They overcome their fears together and remain optimistic for the future.
- The story is open-ended; the family are left hoping they find a safe home soon.
- If you had to leave your home behind, what would you miss the most?
- Why do you think the border guards turned the family back?
- Imagine you have met a family of refugees arriving in your country. How could you make them feel welcome?
- Draw a picture of an imaginary journey, containing all the things you encounter along the way.