A timely, powerful picture book about refugees.
Although the setting’s time and place are unspecified, the story of a widowed mother fleeing a war-torn homeland with her two children reverberates with the real-world experiences of contemporary Syrian refugees and others crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. The family members have black hair and pale skin, and the mother takes advice from a friend who wears the hijab, though her own hair is uncovered. They travel by car, by bicycle, hidden in the backs of trucks, and on foot until they reach a wall, where a border guard prevents them from crossing. Here, expressive, posterlike art renders the guard a monstrously tall, red-bearded man who towers over the wall and sends the family back into the forest. In a heart-rending spread, facing pages depict the mother cradling her children on the verso as the child narrator confides, “In the darkness the noises of the forest scare me,” while on the recto the child continues, “But my mother is with us and she is never scared”—with a picture of the family in the same huddled pose but with the children now asleep and tears streaming from the mothers’ eyes. After a dangerous sea crossing, the family moves with hope toward a safer place, though there is no certain happily-ever-after resolution.
A necessary, artful, and searing story. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-12)