Monday, August 17, 2020

Reviews: Two Books about Refugees


I attended and helped run a teacher institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara a couple weeks ago. It was sponsored by the California Global Education Project and its theme was Displaced: Exploring the Refugee Crisis in the K-12 Classroom. What a tough, important, and interesting topic.


Each participant received 4 books: Refugee by Alan Gratz and Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees by Caroline Moorehead (I'll get to this one eventually). The other two books were for elementary students and are briefly reviewed here:

The Journey by Francesca Sanna
With haunting echoes of the current 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.

From the author: The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries. A few months later, in September 2014, when I started studying a Master of Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, I knew I wanted to create a book about these true stories. Almost every day on the news we hear the terms "migrants" and "refugees" but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take. This book is a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.

I think this book is wonderful for young children to show them the story of refugees without traumatizing them. It's a great introduction to the concepts of leaving home and encountering scary things and people, but being with family throughout.

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Eleanor Shakespeare
The phenomenon of desperate refugees risking their lives to reach safety is not new. For hundreds of years, people have left behind family, friends, and all they know in hope of a better life. This book presents five true stories about young people who lived through the harrowing experience of setting sail in search of asylum: Ruth and her family board the St. Louis to escape Nazism; Phu sets out alone from war-torn Vietnam; José tries to reach the U.S. from Cuba; Najeeba flees Afghanistan and the Taliban; Mohamed, an orphan, runs from his village on the Ivory Coast. Aimed at middle grade students, Stormy Seas combines a contemporary collage-based design, sidebars, fact boxes, timeline and further reading to produce a book that is ideal for both reading and research. Readers will gain new insights into a situation that has constantly been making the headlines.

This book is aimed at upper elementary and perhaps even junior high school children. Rather than fiction, it tells the story of real children who experienced being refugees and includes real photographs as well as illustrations and some statistics. It's very effective.

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