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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Francesca Sanna
Age Range: 6-8
This moving and atmospheric picture book by Italian author/illustrator Francesca Sanna highlights the plight of refugees escaping war and persecution. The narrator tells the story of how life changes dramatically for her family – father, mother and brother – when the war begins. After her father is killed, her mother decides they must flee and escape to another country leaving everything behind. Setting out on a perilous journey at night to avoid being seen, they are constantly on the move, travelling many miles towards a strange and unfamiliar destination. It is a journey filled with fear of the unknown.
Sanna has created a visually sophisticated book with much symbolism within the silk-screen-style artwork. A carefree day at the beach with the narrator and her father building a sand castle while her mother sits and reads and her brother plays in the sea subtly changes; the only ominous indication of the destruction to come depicted by the inky black sea as it laps the shore. By the following page looming black hands are leaping out from a pitch black background while the family are seen running off the edge of the page. These hands represent the approaching war. The next double-page spread is black except for one line of white text “And one day the war took my father” while on the opposite page a few random items from the beach scene are dominated by a pair of glasses staring out from the pitch black.
These are incredibly powerful images that with few words convey a momentum of meaning. There are lighter touches too with the more colourful illustrations of the family travelling in a truck full of luscious fruit or on a bright red train crossing many borders.
At the back of the book the author explains that she was first influenced by the stories she heard from two girls she met in a refugee centre in Italy. This inspired her to create a book so she continued collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries and The Journey is a collage of all those stories.
Endorsed by Amnesty International, The Journeyis a beautiful and evocative book. Although it conveys despair and the uprooting from the familiar to the dangerous and unknown, it is also a story of hope. Given the continuing refugee crisis in Europe and immigration debates, Sanna’s story is very relevant.