Kudos to Crabtree Publishing for their new ‘Leaving My Homeland’ series of picture book style books focusing on the refugee experience from the perspective of children. Each of the books covers one child’s story.
The series includes:
A Refugee’s Journey From Afghanistan
A Refugee’s Journey From Iraq
A Refugee’s Journey from Syria
(Also Myanmar, Colombia, Guatemala, Somalia, South Sudan, Congo, and Yemen)
Ten books in all.
Brilliantly done with photos and drawings and sidebars with bite-sized summaries of the country’s history, and current political situation, the children’s voices speaking about how they used to live before violence and fear took over, about what they loved and what they’ll miss. (The info is truly bite-sized, yet enough to come away with some basic knowledge of each country. Perfectly done for kids… and many adults could benefit from it too.)
Simple things explained, like the difference between refugees, immigrants and IDP’s (internationally displaced persons).
There are stories of journeys by boat, by air, and those on foot and how each of these journeys feels, the refugee camps they live in, sometimes for years, the people that help along the way and those who betray.
I especially love that these books for children don’t shy away from talk about Islamaphobia and why some people might be afraid of Muslims. They straighten out misconceptions and show children from these countries as simply children.
All of the stories are extraordinary to imagine, but despite the subject matter there is, amazingly, no drama. The books are not intended to shock or create sympathy, but merely to create a level of understanding of The Other.
For example, in A Refugee’s Journey from Myanmar, by Ellen Rodger, the complicated history and present situation facing the Rohingyas is explained in simple and clear language that not only informs but will, hopefully, lead to questions and conversation.
There are stories about what happens when children go to their new schools, how they don’t fit in, don’t speak the language, but the focus is never on how that makes the child feel sad, or of being bullied or teased, though we know that happens, but instead, the mandate of the books seems to be… now that we know something of the situation these individuals have come from, the things they’re dealing with…. what can we do to help?
Imagine living in a country where fear is normal. You fear government soldiers, the police, and maybe even your next-door neighbour. You might be scared of being attacked if you leave your home. That is what life is like for some people….
Each book also includes a glossary and lists of websites and other excellent reading along the same lines, like Margriet Ruurs’ Stepping Stones and many others. This is really such brilliant, welcome and necessary reading for kids, and families together.
Books that matter. Can’t have too much of this.