Forced to leave home, a young boy finds comfort in a story of Jesus Christ.
An unnamed boy living in an unnamed desert village in Syria is rudely awoken one night when his parents tell him that their country is no longer safe, that they must flee. The boy hates both the thought of leaving and the reality of waiting to arrive at a destination, and his frustrations boil over in a tearful outburst. An old woman in a refugee camp tells him one of her “favorite stories”: that of the infant Jesus Christ and his flight to Egypt. Using the words of the boy’s own flight, she hearteningly points out that despite the successes of Jesus’ ministry, “he never forgot what it was like—the leaving and the waiting and the different.” Notably, the old woman never names Jesus in the story; readers, however, will likely infer his identity through the illustrations. All characters are dark-haired and olive-skinned; the family and other refugees are cued as Muslim, with the women and girls wearing hijab in public. The old woman, dressed in peasant clothing evocative of Turkey or the Caucasus, also appears in hijab—a disconcerting contradiction to her evident belief in aspects of Jesus’ story not subscribed to in Islam. This contradiction is never addressed in the text; indeed, the text never addresses much at all, delivering a warm but bland tale of faiths coming together. The resolution fails to delve deeply into the struggle of adjustment, further undermining the story’s emotional impact.
Nobly intentioned, certainly misguided. (Picture book. 4-8)