By: Sandra le Guen
Illustrated by: Stephane Nicolet
Translated by: Daniel Hahn
Published: June 1, 2020
Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids
As a parent and a substitute teacher, I love using books to help explain difficult or hard-to-understand topics. I especially like to use them if a situation arises that I think a book will do a better job of explaining a situation than I would, for example, bullying or teasing. This children’s book offers a wonderful explanation of the plight of refugees or immigrants and the difficulties children face in trying to understand their new world.
Even here in small-town Iowa we still have families that move in from other countries. Many speak very little English, yet they are coming to our schools and trying to fit in while not completely understanding our culture, routines, or language. This children’s book offers a peek inside the mind of a young girl starting school in a new land after a harrowing journey across the ocean. She doesn’t talk or smile and looks to the sky. Jeannette also likes looking at the sky and tells her mom about this new girl in school. Jeannette’s mom encourages her to ask the new student to play. When she does, they realize they can communicate through pictures and Jeannette learns about Iliana’s journey and her love of the stars. Iliana learns that she can take “refuge” in a new friend, their common interests, her new school, and with her family.
This book, originally published in France, is one that can cross all borders and languages. The story seems to be translated without difficulty and the illustrations offer simple pencil drawings with colors that tell the story just as much as the words. If you are wanting to talk to your children about immigration or help them be friendly to a new student, I highly recommend this book for home libraries. It would also make an excellent gift for your teacher’s library. This book will offer a way to start the conversation with your children and also remind them that even though they look different from other children, they can still have the same interests whether it be sports or music or space.
Sandra le Guen is the author of numerous picture books and novels in France. She created a photo exhibition around her writing process and her perception of the world: I write, I create? Learn more online at www.sandraleguen.blogspot.com.
Stéphane Nicolet was born in Burgundy and still lives in France. He has illustrated many nonfiction titles and is now exploring comics and fiction. He has also written and illustrated a children’s cookbook.
Daniel Hahn is an author, editor, and award-winning translator. He recently translated Along the Tapajós, written and illustrated by Fernando Vilela. In 2017, Hahn helped establish the TA First Translation Prize, a new prize for debut literary translation. Learn more online at www.danielhahn.co.uk.
To purchase a copy of THE REFUGE, click the photo below: