Posted on | June 16, 2010 | 14 Comments
We’re half way through National Refugee Week here in the UK and as my small contribution to it Fantastic Fiction for Kids is this week all about refugees. It is also, necessarily, about humanity, compassion, despair, empathy and hope.
Unhei has left Korea and is just starting at her new school in the US. Children on the school bus tease her about her strange sounding name and so when she is asked to introduce herself to her classmates she decides she needs to choose an American name. Her new classmates are welcoming and supportive. They enjoy making suggestions of new names for Unhei, but in the end she feels accepted enough to stick with her Korean name.
Whilst this warmly illustrated picture book alludes to the less welcoming experiences of a newcomer, it is ultimately all about kindness, generosity of spirit and left met me (albeit with a tear in my eye) feeling hopeful about humankind’s capacity to be thoughtful and open-hearted.
Where The Name Jar left me feeling optimistic, The Island left me in despair. Where Unhei’s arrival brings riches and welcome opportunities for learning to her classmates, the community on the eponymous Island of this book treat the man on the beach “where fate and ocean currents had washed his raft ashore” with a great deal of hostility, fear and suspicion. Although one or two lone voices wish to offer a welcoming hand, ultimately the community not only force the man to leave the island, they turn their home into a fortress, deliberately isolating themselves from the world outside. The bleak, gloomy, but pitch-perfect illustrations are as haunting and unsettling as the text.
After the grey desolation of The Island the vibrancy and optimism of The Colour of Home was uplifting. It is Hassan’s first day at a new school, having arrive from Somalia, and he feels very far from home. Everything is different, from the routine to the weather, from the food for lunch to the language. He and his classmates settle down to paint and first Hassan creates a happy and colourful picture of his family and home back in Somalia. But as Hassan continues to paint the reason for his family’s flight from Africa becomes clear. The following day Hassan’s class teacher arranges for an interpreter to help her and listen to Hassan tell his painting’s story using his own words. This act of acknowledgement is the first step towards Hassan feeling able to use the word “home” for where he now lives.
At the same time as depicting the cruelty people are capable of, this book is full of kindness and hope. The rich colours of the beautiful illustrations will capture the attention of any reader.
This wonderful book full of muted colours as if faded by the sun tells of the friendship that springs up between two Afghani girls living in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Following the distribution of used clothing by relief workers Lina and Feroza each come away with one sandal from a matching pair. Shoes are highly prized – neither girls has had shoes for a long time, old shoes having been worn out on the long trek to the refugee camp – but the girls decide it is better to share. Thus the pair of shoes is worn by one girl on one day and by the other on the next. Yet, when the girls are separated, Lina and her family having got their papers to leave the refugee camp for America, the girls decide to take one shoe each as they would rather remember their friendship than be entirely practical.
As always, some music to go with today’s picture books:
As to activities to accompany these essential books, you could
Books about refugees