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A small boat crammed full of people wearing life jackets floats on a still sea, against a glowing orange horizon.

by Kate Rafiq

 

Longlisted Little Rebels Award 2024

 

“Here we are, slicing through waves on a murky sea,

Between two lands- two unknown places,

And my kind, brave mother holds me tight…

‘You said we were going on an adventure, Mama.

I thought adventures were meant to be fun’.”

 

The book opens with people packed into a small boat on a bumpy sea. Amongst them is a small child and his mum; she has promised him an “adventure”. Their escape from a ravaged town was an exciting climb up to an overnight stay in a cave while ‘fireworks’ exploded outside; a dash through fields was a search for the sun; they played hide and seek in a place where no one spoke their language; best of all was the ‘Quietest for Longest’ game. But then, the squashed-like-sardines-in-a-tin game in the back of a truck was a little less fun. And now, this boat, crammed with people, smashed by waves, stretching at the seams with an engine which suddenly stops- where is the adventure? Where is Mama’s promise now?

 

A wonderfully composed picture book whose text is all the more arresting for its juxtaposition with beautifully etched seascapes and horizons; the smooth palette is troubled at key moments by unsettling blurry outlines resembling refracted light. The final double page spread (as a rescue boat launches and people gather on the shoreline) is an invitation for us all to recognise, nurture and celebrate human connections.     

 

Inspired by testimonies of those who have sought refuge, it includes a unique foreword by a Search and Rescue team member at Refugee Rescue.  There is also an author back note, detailing the wider context of why people flee their homes, where they move to, why this includes the UK and the sheer numbers of children forced to make such perilous journeys. A plea for empathy and humanity when governments and the media spin out ‘small boat’ headlines like so much clickbait.   10% of the book profits go to Refugee Rescue.  Age 4-8, Hardback 37pp

 

Themes: Refugees and Migration

 

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