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The Last Garden (Hodder, 2021) is a thoughtful, tender story that reminds us never to give up hope. It follows the main protagonist, Zara, who has the most beautiful garden that the whole community enjoys. But one day everyone has to leave the city. The garden is locked with a key while the people flee their homes. The book was inspired by true events in Syria and war gardens around the world and throughout history. It’s very sad to think of cities and homes being destroyed, but this story gives hope that one day peace and colour may be restored to war torn places, just like it was in Zara’s garden.
The Suitcase (Nosy Crow, 2020) is a simple but inspiring story to start conversations about migration with young children. With everyone, in fact. A strange-looking creature appears with a suitcase and the other animals in the story are uncertain about them. The creature has travelled for a long time and has come a long away. While the creature sleeps, the other animals break open their suitcase to find out more about them.
The economic speech and use of white space add to the poignancy of this story, and to the takeaway that we should treat displaced people with empathy and kindness.
THE DAY THE WAR CAME (Nicola Davies, Rebecca Cobb 3-7yrs)
The Day The War Came (Walker 2018), is dedicated to children lost and alone because of war and to those that help them. It is told from the point of view of a child refugee forced to flee the only home they know. Nicola’s lyrical use of language depicts war, powerfully drawing on all the senses to bring the war-torn environment alive to the reader. Rebecca’s light and loose illustrations add to the vulnerability of the main character as they flee the war and reach a place where the significance of an empty chair in a classroom is not taken for granted. A story for children experiencing the unthinkable, and also for those who want to know how to help.
WELCOME (BARROUX, 3-6 yrs)
When Polar Bear and his friends are swept away from their icy home, they hope to find refuge in a new land. But when they are turned away from one place after another, they start to doubt that they will ever find somewhere they will be made welcome.
In this deceptively simple but important picture book, author-illustrator Barroux crafts a powerful story with a surprise ending about hugely important and current issues. Welcome (Egmont 2016) encourages kindness and empathy in the next generation and would be a perfect story to initiate discussion around migrants and refugees. It also touches on global warming and the current climate crisis in a gentle, open-ended way.