Molly and the Shipwreck

Molly and the Shipwreck
Malachy Doyle and Andrew Whitson
Graffeg

Young islander Molly and her family star in their fifth story and once again it’s full of caring and community spirit.

It begins with Molly’s mother receiving a letter from Molly’s teacher saying that the island school might be closed down unless more children can be found. Molly’s attempts to persuade some of the island’s visitors to move there and add to the pupil role meet with no success.

Then some weeks later Molly and her father are out fishing when they come across a rickety boat in trouble. They manage to rescue those on board – a mother and three children, one just a baby and Molly’s family and the other islanders do their best to make them all feel welcome, fixing up one of the empty cottages to house them. 

Molly is keen to enrol Amina, who is about her own age, and her little brother Bo, in the island school and hopes are raised about the increased numbers.

However, not long after an official from the mainland arrives saying he’s come to collect the new arrivals to take them to the camp but giving them some hope that after a while perhaps they could return to the island. So Amina and her family have to go.

Molly and Amina keep in touch over the summer and Molly tells her new friend that she’s watching out each day for Amina’s dad. also making that dangerous journey his family have made.

Will Amina ever be reunited with her father and will the authorities allow the family to return to the island?

With an emphasis on compassion, kindness and hope, in a way that will be understood by young children, author Malachy Doyle and illustrator Andrew Whitson present an important topic that seems to have moved to the back of many people’s consciousness. With Andrew’s dramatic scenes, and Malachy’s warm words, let’s hope that this book will help bring it to the forefront once again.

Refugees

Refugees
Brian Bilston and José Sanabria
Palazzo

Here’s a book to make you think hard no matter what your feelings on the topic.

Two opposing viewpoints on migration and the refugee story are presented in Brian Bilston’s poem Refugees.

The first presents the reaction of separatist-minded individuals – all too many sadly – who think badly of refugees deeming them scroungers and wasters after an easy life in a new country: an attitude I fear in the fractured society of the UK at least, that has been fuelled by the current BREXIT thinking of those advocating our leaving the EU. ‘Go back to your own country’ is what people seeking asylum might be told having risked life and limb to find a safe haven.

Read the other way however,

the poem offers a warm welcome to displaced people needing asylum: understanding, compassion and kindness are the order of the day in this alternative viewpoint.

Now I am totally of the second view and have taught countless children from refugee and asylum seeking families from as far afield as Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Pakistan in schools around London gradually coming to know what traumas the families have undergone. More recently, I have befriended one Syrian family who have come to live in Stroud, the town where I currently spend much of the time.

However I am fortunate – one of the ‘haves’ with my own house, car etc. and have seldom been without anything I have wanted let alone needed, so really who am I to condemn those less fortunate – the ‘have-nots’ let’s say, who have little themselves and fear losing what little they have to others – the outsiders.
It is far less easy to understand the prejudice of the powerful and affluent who prey on those suspicions and fears to serve their own interests.

The dystopian world illustrator José Sanabria creates in his first six spreads where refugees arrive in an armada of hot air balloons and guardians of the ‘anywhere’ homeland are depicted as penguin-like police,

distance the dilemma from any particular reality, giving the reader space to ponder the topic transnationally. Those for the second part show open-armed residents welcoming the newcomers with offerings of food, drink, flowers, toys and more.

This poem has already been included in an anthology of poetry entitled From Syria with Love. Presented as it is now in this superbly illustrated book, Refugees offers a powerful and pertinent message for readers/listeners of all ages from KS1 upwards to adults, some of whom might one hopes, start to question their own attitudes.

No matter what, the book ought to be shared, discussed and pondered upon by all.

The Journey

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The Journey
Francesca Sanna
Flying Eye Books
Having worked in several London schools where asylum seekers and refugee families are part and parcel of the school community, I was privileged to hear some of their moving stories first hand. The author of this book has also heard and indeed collected such stories from people who have, for one reason or another, been forced to flee their homes and undertake long and dangerous journeys in search of safety. Her book is the result of that collection of personal stories and its author/illustrator has done the tellers proud. It focuses on one particular family of four that very quickly becomes three as the narrator’s father is killed in the war, leaving a frightened mother and her two children. It is their story  we share as they prepare to leave their home and undertake a perilous journey – the mother calls it a ‘great adventure’ – towards a ‘safe place’ where they can live free from fear and from constant danger.
Leaving at night so as not to draw attention to themselves, the family is on the move for days, gradually shedding material things as they go …

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and eventually reach the border. Here though, surrounded by forest and blocked by an enormous wall, they are stopped and told they cannot proceed.

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Sleep overtakes them and next morning having eluded the guards, they are approached by a man whom they pay to get them across and on to the next stage of the journey.
After a perilous boat voyage during which stories of monsters give way to stories of magic and kindness …

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finally land is reached once more and the three board a train, a train that crosses borders, heading they hope for a new place – a safe haven – where, like the birds that they watch from the train, they can start afresh  where a new story can begin.
It’s impossible to read this without having tears in your eyes, it’s so beautifully told; part of its power being in the simplicity of the telling; but it is the outstanding illustrations that hold such potence. There is that border guard towering menacingly over them and the trafficker shown as only an enormous silhouette …

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both in stark contrast to the loving mother enfolding her children within her protective arms in the border forest –

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such eloquence.
This truly is a story of our time and one that deserves a place on the shelves of every family, every educational establishment, every library, every place where people come together to talk and to share stories, Beautifully produced though one has now come to expect that from Flying Eye Books; however this one doesn’t shout quality, it embodies quality.

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