There is a whole series of these Seeking Refuge stories that were made for BBC and then turned in to books. The stories are told from children themselves that have endured and experienced the need to leave home and have now settled in the United Kingdom. The tv shorts covered five children’s stories from, Zimbabwe, Eurasia, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Iran.
I don’t often stray from my fictional preference, but I feel like these books are important in seeing the process and emotions from the children themselves. I’ve read a few of the five and consistently the voice in the books does seems to reflect the age, maturity, and emotional understanding of the child, who’s story the creators are condensing from the grown children themselves. There are not long passages, or backgrounds of political justifications, there are details, but they are not up for debate, they are what the child understood, experienced and felt.
All five stories are illustrated in various engaging styles, that add detail and understanding to the heartbreaking stories. I love Navid’s illustrations the best as the large eyes seem to reflect so much of what he and his family have seen and the challenges they face in his new country as well.
The illustrations really make the books, and the sparse words more powerful. In Nabvid’s story the play of light in some of the pictures and the fear felt in the shadows is very powerful. With only 32 pages, a lot is beautifully conveyed as Navid and his Kurdish mom leave Iran and travel to Italy, and maybe Slovenia, and then France. They pass through a forest with police dogs barking fiercely, and have their lorry cut open with a knife.
When at last they meet up with Navid’s dad, Navid doesn’t recognize his father, and the transition is just the beginning of a difficult acclimation process. School is not easy and the image of his mother coming to visit him at lunch time on the other side of the fence is powerful. “When the bell rang to go back to classes, my mum had to go home, but I held on to the school fence as though I was in some sort of prison.” It isn’t enough to leave, making a place feel like home is often equally challenging.
The book is hopeful, Navid’s school has other refugees from around the world and they meet and talk, he also knows he has his parent’s support and looks to the future with optimism.
There is nothing religious articulated in the book other than the country of origin, Iran, and his mom being Kurdish. She wears hijab at the beginning, but once they seem to arrive in the UK she removes it. Its a human story, one that adults and kids alike need to be aware of and empathetic with. More and more refugees are arriving and understanding their stories and helping them settle in, is the least we can do, inshaAllah.
SOME WEBSITES TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SERIES AND TO WATCH THE ANIMATED SHORTS:
Summaries\ of all five stories with teacher notes: https://www.bbc.com/teach/seeking-refuge/zjf2nrd
Navid’s Story clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTNwhwVXV4Y