Francesca Sanna’s The Journey is a children’s book about refugees. After the war takes their father and makes staying where they are impossible, two children and their mother brave the unknown in an effort to find somewhere safe they can live. They cross borders, travel by land, sea, and on foot, never sure if “here” is the right place.
This is a brightly colored and beautifully illustrated tale on a dark and frightening topic. The story is told from the sibling’s point of view, although the clever images show what the words don’t illustrate: a mother who is very much afraid, but who must hide her own fear in order to comfort her children. War is depicted as a gluttonous darkness devouring everything in its path, which cleverly manages to make it frightening without depicting the associated violence.
The book doesn’t have a happy ending, although it could be viewed as hopeful, as the refugees are still looking for a safe place. The book illustrates the struggles faced by refugees the world over as they are forced to flee, but are often turned away and persecuted wherever they go. Francesca Sanna compiled a collection of real life stories of refugees together to make this book; as such, it’s a general telling that can be easily applicable to many, many people.
The Journey is a somewhat bleak children’s book, but one that talks about a topic that is very pressing. The contrasting pictures and words are likely to inspire conversation, asking children and adults alike to discuss the topic of conflict and the plight of refugees the world over. I’d highly recommend the use of this book in an educational setting. Francesca Sanna is an illustrator to keep an eye on.
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