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[REVIEWS] Picture books around migration.

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

I find it refreshing to have stories dealing with contemporary issues aimed at children. It gives them the tools to have a better understanding of the world we live in!


COMING TO ENGLAND In this picture book, we follow little Floella’s journey from Trinidad to England. Her dad leaves first, followed by her mum the next year. After spending time with their wicked auntie, the great news arrives: The children will finally join their parents in London!


Floella learnt all about Great-Britain’s history at school, but she wonders what England is going to be like. Maybe, there, her dad would play Jazz, and she would meet the Queen while buying mangoes! After a 15 days-trip with no parents around, the family reunites. They discover England’s cold weather and face unwelcoming people, in the streets, and at school.


Naturally, Floella misses her life in Trinidad, but little by little, she settles in her new country. And guess what? As a grown-up, she eventually got to realise one of her dreams and meet the Queen!


Thanks to 'Coming to England', I heard about the Windrush generation.


These people were encouraged to travel from Jamaica and other islands by the British government, to work in the UK and fill labour shortages after WWII. Back then, these countries were not independent, and the Home Office didn’t keep a record of those granted leave to remain. It still 70 years later, represents an issue as many of them don’t have a clear status in the country they spent their whole life in.






SANS PAPIERS

This heart-wrenching picture book takes us into the undocumented life of a little girl and her dad.


War broke in their country and, the girl’s mum was killed. To protect his daughter, her dad decides to seek asylum in France, the country of human rights.


In France, her dad teaches her to recognise threats and to be as invisible as possible to not get into trouble. They sleep in public gardens or cheap hostels in the city. Four years later, things are brightening up, the girl is fluent in French and feels like she belongs. She has friends, loves beef Burgundy, Monsieur Hulot and Louis de Funès. Jacques Prévert’s poems and the Eiffel Tower.


On the class photo day, she’s very excited and puts on her prettiest dress. But when she arrives at the school gates, policemen await for her. The little girl is escorted to the precinct where she finds her dad, handcuffed.


Sans papiers is a poignant book. We haven't got many details on the characters, which gives their tale a universal aspect. In the book, the little girl talks about the hardships they had to go through in order to come to France where they thought to be safe. The story’s tragic because this family ran away from war and just when they feel at home in another, they’re deported. Uprooted, again.


Don't look down on picture books, they can be very instructive, even for adults.





THE DAY WAR CAME


Ce livre nous rappelle que la guerre n'arrive pas qu'aux autres et qu'elle chamboule l'existence de personnes comme vous et moi. Elle s'abat sans prévenir en une journée d'apparence ordinaire et transforme la vie de ses victimes à jamais.

Le texte de Nicola Davies est d'une délicate efficience tandis que les illustrations au crayon de Rebecca Cobb sont émouvantes. L'alliance de ces deux talents traduit avec justesse le désarroi de ces individus qui après avoir évité le pire ne nécessitent parfois qu'une main tendue pour essayer de se reconstruire.





NO BALLET SHOES IN SYRIA


Aya is 11. She escaped Syria and just arrived in Manchester with her Mum and brother. Because her dad went missing during the journey, the little girl does her best to be the glue that holds her family together.


One day, Aya stumbles across a ballet class and can't help but watch. The teacher invites her to join in and realises that thanks to her talent, Aya could enter a ballet competition and win a scholarship to get in a prestigious ballet school...


That beautiful book from Catherine Bruton is a masterpiece. We follow Aya in her daily life, trying to obtain the refugee status for her family; dealing with traumatic memories of the journey to England and people's conduct towards immigrants. Without telling too much of the plot, I'll just say that the construction on which the story's based works perfectly. The author is well documented and that even made me wonder if this fiction wasn't a testimony.


It is touching, sweet and heart-breaking, all at once.




DEAR MR PRESIDENT Throughout the story, Sam tries to judge if building a wall is the best solution to ease the tension with his brother.


Though at first Sam is the one asking advice from the president, he ends up being the one sharing his piece of wisdom with a certain fair-haired president.


A lovely story about kindness, ideal for opening up a conversation with children about migration and politics.




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