Though given a British setting, this sensitive tale of a young war refugee slowly adapting to a new life will strike chords of sympathy and recognition almost anywhere.
A hasty nighttime departure with her parents leads to a long ride in a motor launch crowded with other refugees. In “the new country,” Azzi finds herself living with her parents in a one-room flat, going to a school where she doesn’t speak the language and pining for her left-behind grandmother. Her feelings of isolation are soon eased by Sabeen, an adult classroom helper who speaks her language and teaches her English phrases, and Lucy, a friendly classmate. Azzi in turn helps her parents settle in by sharing newly learned words and also by planting a handful of the beans her father had brought in her class’ summer garden. In time, her father receives a work permit that allows a move to a small house, and, joy of joys, her grandmother arrives to reunite the family. In Garland’s sequential panels, Azzi’s subdued emotional landscape is clearly mapped in her body language, occasional tears and sweet smile. Her city of origin is never specified, freeing the sharply felt anxiety and life-altering disruption she and her parents experience from particular locales or wars.
A positive but not blandly idealized portrayal of challenges displaced people face. (Graphic picture book. 7-9)