Showing posts with label refugee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label refugee. Show all posts

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Zenobia


Zenobia by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman (UQP) ISBN 9780702260254 HB RRP $19.95

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This graphic novel is about a young girl who is a refugee from Syria and her dangerous journey away from the war in her country. Through evocative pictures and minimal, well-chosen words, it is a gentle but tragic story that doesn’t shy away from reality. Created in Denmark, where it won a national illustration award, Zenobia deals with an important international issue. It will no doubt will be read by older children and adults around the world.

Beginning at the end, the reader is not lulled into a sense that this book has a happy conclusion. Rather, the story is about how Amina got there and who she was. There are three stories in one and they are depicted by different colours. Amina’s present at the start is full colour. When she remembers her mother back in Syria in the past, the illustrations are in shades of brown. And the story of Zenobia, a great warrior queen of Syria, is in purple and orange. The colour changes are very effective in indicating time, but also in changing the mood of the story.

The first words are after ten pages of pictures, which strengthens their impact. Then at the end of the story there is no need for words again – this is quite powerful.  The story of Zenobia, told by Amina's mother, helps to make the book a bit less bleak. Zenobia acts as a source of strength and comfort for Amina after the ship wreck, even when everything is going wrong. Also Amina's memories of playing hide and seek and cooking with her mother, are very touching.

For children learning about refugees Zenobia clearly depicts how people like Amina have no choice but to leave. And while it is a very hard topic, it is important for children to understand what is happening in the world. Still, some younger readers may find it upsetting.

This graphic novel is the ideal format to depict war and desperation in such a quiet but emotive manner. Zenobia is an important and haunting read for upper primary school upwards.

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Blue Cat

The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781760292294

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘“If that cat could speak,” she said, rolling her eyes to the ceiling, “imagine the stories he would tell.”
Personally, I felt I would rather not know.’

The blue cat appeared around town about the same time as Ellery did, according to the narrator, Columba. Ellery is a new child at her school, a European refugee who doesn’t (or doesn’t want to) speak. The blue cat is thought to have come from one of the navy ships at the wharf. Was it tossed overboard, or did it flee? Columba and her next-door-neighbours, who have befriended the cat, can only guess at the cat’s background as they quietly contemplate the atrocities it has probably seen. (‘… His body shakes when he’s asleep with secret anger dark and deep.’)

The mysterious blue cat disappears after hearing the blast of noisy sirens for the practice air raid. Columba bands together with Ellery, and her resourceful classmate Hilda, to search the streets of Sydney. But as the story transcends into a haunting alter-reality, we are left to ponder whether Columba is searching for a blue cat … or whether she’s searching inside herself for the answers to the meaning of the war.

Award-winning Dubosarsky combines her lyrical style with historical documents to tell this fascinating, fairy-tale like story of the friendship between a boy and a girl in Sydney, 1942. Her writing beautifully captures the innocence of children caught up in a war, starkly contrasted, for example, against a documented government order for ‘Enemy Aliens’ or a black and white photograph of Hitler at the Eiffel Tower.

The story targets 10–14 year-olds but will likely appeal to a wider readership, especially lovers of literary historical fiction. This powerful reflection on war will settle quietly in your heart and linger, long after the final page.