Refugees: Introducing a crisis to children


The Day War Came – Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

Originally published as a poem in the Guardian in 2016, The Day War Came sees a child describes how her life and her world were turned upside down the day war came. After fleeing alone, she eventually reaches a safe place. There she finds a school but is told there is no room for her.  Following this, we see a moment of hope as the younger generation bring chairs to accommodate the refugee and others like her.

This is a truly inspirational picture book. As a teacher, issues such as the current refugee crisis are sensitive ones to tackle. To have a picture book that so clearly illustrates the reality is a fantastic resources. As any good picture book, there a huge discussion prompts; from the reaction the refugee faces to the fact she has been forced to leave. One key element for me is how ‘war’ is not described, even though its meaning evolves during the book.

This is a perfect picture book for older children. One that is evocative, thought-provoking and proves that good things come in small packages. Definitely a book that every parent and school should invest in.

Boy 87 – Ele Fountain

Shif is trying to live like any other young boy, until the day soldiers appear in his neighbourhood. The next day, without much warning, he is forced to leave behind his family and leave the country. His only companion is his best friend. In the quest to reach a boat that will take them to a safer land, the two encounter danger at every turn. Danger that ultimately leaves Shif fending for himself in a strange country before continuing the last leg of his journey.

Ele Fountain has written a heart-breaking story in Boy 87. There are countless issues that are dealt with – poverty, imprisonment, death, injustice – yet the narrative voice presents them in a manner accessible to many maturing children. It will certainly open young readers’ eyes to the suffering that children across the world go through in their search for a better life.

Boy 87 is a fantastic, emotion read which has gone straight on my list of books to share with my class next year. It is definitely one that is only suitable for the top end of primary school though due to the issues that are involved.


A Story Like The Wind – Gill Lewis

Illustrated by Jo Weaver

Rami is in a small dinghy filled with strangers, all of them refugees seeking a safe harbour. But with no motor, no oars, and a rising tide, their situation looks bleak. So Rami pulls out the only thing he brought with him—a violin—and begins to tell his fellow refugees a story through his music. And his story, about an indomitable white stallion and its struggle for freedom, gives them all the strength to remember the past and hope for the future. 

The word beautiful does this book an injustice. It is lyrically and poetically written, supported by Weaver’s incredible illustrations. I fell in love with this obok that first time I read it; however, reading aloud to my class was a revelation. It is a book which flows off the tongue. Another highly evocative title which should be read.


Oranges in No Man’s Land – Elizabeth Laird

Since her father left Lebanon and her mother was tragically killed by a bomb stirke, Ayesha has been living with her granny and two younger siblings. Refugees in their own country, they live in a corner of a derelict flat, sharing with many other families. They live in a city divided by no man’s land. No-one dares venture across this area, until Ayesha sets out to find the only doctor who will save her granny.

This is a short but sweet book, which I read in about an hour. As with all of Elizabeth Laird’s books the writing is descriptive, but also accessible. You get a sense of Ayesha’s life and the deep troubles in her country without being bombarded by text. This makes it a perfect book for slightly younger children and those not ready to access Boy 87 yet.

Not only is it worth getting a copy of this book, but also tracking down some of Laird’s other books.

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