The book begins with a family who enjoys going to the beach together often. But then things change and the war begins. Darkness invades and takes over the landscape, then the children’s father is taken by the war. Their mother hears of people leaving for a safer place, far away. She decides to leave as well. They leave at night, hide in different vehicles along the way. They reach the border but are turned back by a guard. They manage by paying for help to reach the sea, but their journey has not ended. As they continue to travel over dangerous seas and past many borders, the narrator notices that birds too are migrating along with them on their own long journey.
This picture book captures the current refugee crisis through a lens that is very appropriate for children. The impact of war is shown as a dark figure, destroying buildings and wreaking havoc. It envelopes them for awhile, particularly with the death of their father. There is a feeling of a constant state of upheaval and danger, the journey is one with its own dangers but is a way forward away from an even more violent situation. The focus here is on the devastation of war and the turmoil it brings, rather than a specific population. The message is that it could be any of us.
Sanna’s illustrations are so wrenching and evocative. War as a long-fingered destruction that envelopes and changes everything is beautifully shown. The book has a feeling of motion throughout, the long pages leading one on your own journey. The huge guard at the gate, stands horrifyingly large on the page, dwarfing the family. Then alone in the woods, the mother is their safe place and their home yet ever so human as well. The illustrations are artistic, beautiful and speak volumes about the emotions of refugee families.
An important and vital book, this book allows children to understand the plight of refugees in our world and will open hearts. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Flying Eye Books and Edelweiss.