Immigrant. Refugee. Migrant. If you follow current events, you hear these words a lot. But perhaps we don’t stop to think about them. Francesca Sanna writes in the author’s note of her picture book, The Journey:
“Almost every day in the news we hear the terms ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take.”
She interviewed many people from many countries and began collecting their stories, which became the basis for The Journey. In the book, a family’s life is changed by war. The war makes their city unsafe and takes the life of their father. Soon people are talking about leaving the city to go somewhere safer. But leaving isn’t as easy as packing up and moving. We follow the family as they travel at night and keep moving. They hide among cargo in the back of trucks, and it seems there is danger everywhere. The illustrations have a fantastic feel to them, but the story itself is quite real. Together Sanna’s art and text offer a poignant story that gives young readers a glimpse of what is behind the headlines.
You might pair The Journey with Their Great Gift by John Coy to continue the discussion on immigration and bring it closer to home. This photographic exploration of immigrant life begins with the words “My family came here from far away…” The photographs by Wing Young Huie are the focus of each spread. They show people from many different cultures in recognizable scenes, at school, at work, with their families. The spare text shares some commonalities of the immigrant experience, some advice from immigrant parents to their children, and the question “What will we do with their great gift?” This book is a great jumping off point for discussion about immigration or family history, and the focus on what we all have in common no matter when our families came to this country or why is an important message. Both the author and the photographer share their own family arrival stories in the back matter, which also includes a note on how they arrived at a book.
This Land is Our Land by Linda Barrett Osborne begins with the author’s family arrival story before it delves in to the history of immigration in the United States. This book, for older readers than the two books featured above, looks plainly at the way that immigration has been viewed in the past (and up to the present) against the idea of America as a melting pot where anyone can seek a better life. Osborne encourages readers to think critically about immigration, to ask themselves what the idea that “this land is our land” really means, and to consider what immigrants have done for this country over the last 200 years. She acknowledges that there are many different answers to the questions she poses, and that her book can’t answer all of them. It can use history, along with personal stories, to give readers plenty to think about, and it does so admirably.
The Journey by Francesca Sanna. 2016. 9781909263994. Gr. Ps-2
Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy and Wing Young Huie (photog.). 2016. 9781467780544. Gr. 1-4
This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne. 2016. 9781419716607. Gr. 5-9