Tag Archives: refugee narratives

Wherever I Go

Written by: Mary Wagley Copp

Illustrated by: Munir D. Mohammed 

For ages: 6-9 years

Language:  English

Topics Covered: Refugees, Resettlement, Lived Experiences, Family, African Culture & Identity, Friendship, Growing Up, Social-Emotional Learning.

Summary: 

Abia has declared herself queen of the refugee camp she lives in, Shimelba!  She knows all the ins and outs of daily life, like how to walk quickly and not spill any water when walking back from the pumps.  Abia sings the loudest too, just like a queen would.  Abia assures the reader too, that she’s the strongest queen because she pounds cassava roots to help her mother.  Abia’s father even made her a queen’s crown, out of acacia branches.

Before Abia became queen, she was an infant when her parents fled their village.  They walked for miles through the dark to safety.  Now, the family has been at Shimelba for seven years.  Abia loves it, it’s the only home she knows.  But her father talks about another home, a forever home.  Abia and her family will leave all of their belongings behind for others, including her crown.

This is a beautiful book.  Abia does leave the camp, but the traits that made her a good queen at Shimelba also help her in her new home.  In the back is an author’s note about displaced people, she’s worked extensively for refugee families and helping them resettle, much like Abia’s family did.  There is also a list of other books to check out that talk about refugee experiences and resettlement.

This book was generously sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own! Wherever I Go was just recently released, on the 21st.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Mary+Wagley+CoppMary Wagley Copp has worked for many years in the refugee resettlement community. She was a producer of an Emmy Award–winning documentary on refugee resettlement, which was the inspiration for this book. Her professional life has also included community organizing in Appalachia, teaching in Ecuador, and being executive director of two nonprofit organizations. When she’s not writing, Mary teaches ESL to newcomers in her community. She lives in Westport, Massachusetts, with her husband, their puppy, and their chickens. They have three grown children. You can visit her website here!

 

images-3Munir D. Mohammed is a native of Ghana, West Africa, who lives in Providence, Rhode Island. He maintains an active studio practice and does community-based work as a muralist. He is the cofounder of the International Gallery for Heritage and Culture, which provided art and cultural education programming in schools and in the community. Munir received a Master of Arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he is a Teaching Artist for Project Open Door, RISD’s college access program for artistically talented teens attending local urban public high schools.

 

Lilah Tov Good Night

Written by: Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G)

Illustrated by: Noar Lee Naggan

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English and some Hebrew

Topics Covered: Refugee, Growing Up, Lullaby, Family, Nature, Love, Social-Emotional Learning, 

Summary: 

This is a very sweet book that delicately explains the refugee experience of a family in a lullaby style.  A young girl happily plays outside and then eats dinner with her family, a shiny menorah on their windowsill.  When night falls, the foursome set off walking into the forest.  The young girl says goodnight, “Lilah Tov” to the animals she sees on their walk, bundled up in the snowy weather.  She is shown happy and smiling for the entire book, optimistic and reverent of the natural world surrounding her.

While this is one refugee experience represented, it is not so detailed that it couldn’t be used to generally explain the big picture concept of the refugee experience to young readers.  The book itself is beautiful, and the main character is thrilled to wish all things, creatures and non, a good night.  The majority of the family’s travel takes place at night, including a long boat ride underneath a large starry sky.  This would be a great story for people looking to introduce these lived experiences to younger audiences, or before reading other books that have more violent aspects for fleeing. Four Feet, Two Sandals; My Name is Sangoel, and The Banana Leaf Ball are all books that would fall under this second category. All in all, we enjoyed this book very much and would be happy to have it on any bookshelf we encountered.

This book was generously sent by the author, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Ben7833-800-x-534It’s hard to say which has been more of a driving force for Ben Gundersheimer: music or storytelling. Throughout his career the two crafts have intertwined, propelling him as a performer and author. By age nine he was writing his own original songs, and as the son of children’s book author/illustrator Karen Gundersheimer, composing stories was a constant activity as well.

Ben went on to receive a scholarship from Berklee College of Music, travel the world as a singer/songwriter, and earn a Masters of Education. During his student teaching days he engaged his fourth graders through music, and it was this experience that transformed him into MISTER G, inspiring him to relaunch his career to focus on performing for children and families.

A decade later, the Latin GRAMMY Award-winning musician, activist, author and educator, is still fusing music and storytelling. The latest permutation of these two interwoven passions is as a picture book author, with two new books based on his original, multilingual songs. Señorita Mariposa chronicles the extraordinary migration of the monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico, while Lilah Tov Good Night is a lyrical lullaby celebrating the beauty of the natural world and the spirit of resilience in a refugee family.

From illustrator Noar Lee Naggan’s website: “Hi! I’m an illustrator living in New York, chiefly interested in children’s books. I also have a great passion to tell stories, and do it through my illustrations. I aspire to one day write my own books and illustrate them.

I was born in Israel and graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. I previously worked mostly in animation and graphic design with major companies in Israel, but several years ago I found my calling in illustration and I never looked back.”

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Written by: Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed

Illustrated by: Doug Chayka

For ages: 7-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Refugees, Friendship, Empathy, Immigration, Global Community. 

Summary: This is a very sweet and emotional story of two friends that meet in a refugee camp when each gets only one sandal from a supply truck.  Lina and Feroza become friends and begin to share the sandals, alternating days wearing them.  The girls spend almost all of their time together, talking about their dreams of leaving the camp and completing chores.  When Lina’s family is put on a list to leave the camp, who will end up with the 2 shoes when there are 4 feet?

This book was inspired by a camp that author Khadra Mohammed worked at in Peshawar, Pakistan.  Despite being published in 2007, it is even more prescient today given the current crises today regarding immigration and loss of homes, resulting in forced migration of various peoples across the globe. The accompanying illustrations by Doug Chayka are beautiful, looking painted rather than drawn.  These stories are important for children to learn, and to learn about the privilege that we live with in many parts of the United States.  If able, this book can be used as a jumping off point for more education about global refugees, activism, or lived experiences.

About the Authors & the Illustrator:

klw2Karen Lynn Williams (right) was born in Connecticut, and received her Master’s degree in deaf education. She has lived in Africa and in Haiti. Karen had an early dream to be one of the youngest published authors, starting a writing club at ten. However, Karen’s published works came later in life, after extensive travels and family experience. Karen’s ability to draw from personal experience and adapt into writing forms for all ages and interests expresses her true gift.

The Pittsburgh Refugee Center‘s Executive Director, Khadra Mohammed (left) is a native of Somalia and has over twenty years of experience in working with refugee populations, both in the US and in refugee camps in Pakistan and Kenya. In Pittsburgh, for the past eight years, she has advocated on behalf of local refugees and brought awareness of refugee issues to the attention of the greater Pittsburgh community. Ms. Mohammed is also a published author of several children’s books. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction in 2005, and was honored with PUMP and Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2005 40 under 40 Award.

638133_102_120_LTE2MDQzNzE2NDMtOTAxMDgyNjExDoug Chayka is a “freelance illustrator based in New Jersey and also travels frequently to Berlin, Germany, where he works for part of the year. His clients include The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, NBC News, Politico, Pentagram, Wired, and many others. Doug has also taught illustration full-time at Ringling College of Design (2009-10) and Savannah College of Art and Design (2010-12), and on an adjunct basis at Pratt Institute, City College of New York, Rochester Institute of Technology, and The Illustration Academy.

Doug grew up in Weedsport, New York and attended Rochester Institute of Technology to study illustration and graphic design. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Kansas City to study further under one of my illustration heroes, Mark English, his first big influence and an early mentor. Doug began freelancing there in the late ’90’s and landed my first editorial assignments at the Kansas City Star while also working on his first picture book projects. A few years later Doug began to travel extensively in Europe and eventually stayed in Berlin, where he studied painting and printmaking as a Fulbright scholar at The Berlin University of the Arts from 2000-2002. Many different people and places have helped shape Doug’s point of view as an artist. Doug believes that it’s a process that is ongoing and grows with every new client and each unique challenge.”

The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World

Written by: Katie Smith Milway

Illustrated by: Shane Evans

For ages: 8 years and up

Language: English & Kirundi

Topics Covered: Refugee Narratives, POC-Centric Narratives, Sportsmanship, Teamwork, Empowerment, Global Community, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Historical Figure.

Summary: Deo is a young boy when his village is attacked.  He and his family flee into the night with only what they can carry.  Deo can’t bring his favorite banana leaf ball to play soccer with, but grabs some food and supplies.  Deo is separated from his family, and travels alone for weeks until he reaches a refugee camp named Lukole.  At the camp, Deo notices that people get along when there are enough supplies for everyone but when there are shortages people bicker and steal.  One boy, Remy, is a leader of troublemakers and often picks on Deo.

One day, a man shows up at the camp with a ball.  It’s not made of banana leaves but of leather.  The man shows kids at Lukole how to play soccer, and picks Deo to be a team captain and puts Remy on the same team.  After the game, Deo’s team has won but just by a point!  Deo brings out a banana leaf ball he has made and hidden in his hut and teaches the other children his tricks and teamwork skills.  Fast forward several years, Deo has become a soccer coach and can also leave the refugee camp!  He ends up finding some of his family members and starts a farm with them, also coaching children in his village at soccer.

This book focuses on teamwork and soccer while subtly providing information about refugee camp life and the specific difficulties surrounding that experience. Deo is based on a man named Benjamin Nzobonankira, who was a child refugee turned soccer coach. In the back of the book is several pages talking about Benjamin, the Kirundi language, and tons of resources about non-profit soccer and play groups working around the world.  This book is part of the Citizen Kid collective, which is a collection of books bringing different experiences to light in a developmentally appropriate and empowering way.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Deo felt when he was in Lukole all on his own?
  • What are some ways that Lukole residents built community even though they were displaced from their home villages?
  • How do you think that the folks in refugee camps today are creating their own communities?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about the One Hen organization.  What are they doing to empower global citizens?  How can we support groups like this, trying to bring about change to children around the world?
  • Often, we want to make a difference in people’s lives that have less than us.  This is such an important value, but it must be done in a way that is not further marginalizing, othering, or colonizing to the individuals receiving help.  Find an organization that focuses on community and self-empowerment, sustainability, and not pocketing donations.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

katie_smith_milwayKatie Smith Milway, winner of the 2009 Notable Book for a Global Society Award and the 2009 Children’s Africana Book Award for One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference, is on a quest to bring world issues to elementary and middle school children. One Hen, set in Ghana, introduces kids to microfinance and the power of social entrepreneurship, and gave rise to the nonprofit organization One Hen, Inc. (www.onehen.org), which offers downloadable resources for educators to teach financial literacy and giving back.

Her 2010 book, The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough, is set in the Honduran hillsides and introduces kids to the concept of food security and how each of us, at any age, can combat global hunger (www.thegoodgarden.org). And her latest book, Mimi’s Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It, set in Kenya, connects kids’ actions for global health to results in Africa.

Katie is also a partner at nonprofit and philanthropy advisor The Bridgespan Group in Boston. She serves on the board of World Vision U.S., has coordinated community development programs in Latin America and Africa for Food for the Hungry International and was a delegate to the 1992 Earth Summit. She has written several adult books on sustainable development, including The Human Farm: A Tale of Changing Lives and Changing Lands (Kumarian Press, 1994), which documented the work of sustainable agriculture pioneer Don Elias Sánchez (role model for The Good Garden’s teacher).

Prior to Bridgespan, Katie served as editorial director and founding publisher at Bain & Co. A graduate of Stanford University, the Free University of Brussels and INSEAD, Katie spent a decade working in and around more than a dozen countries in Africa and Latin America on sustainable development projects, including village banking, food security, primary health care, water resourcing and education.

700436155In the business of illustration, design and creative development, Shane W. Evans is a multi-talented artist and visionary who combines his world travels with his art to influence creative expression in others. Evans studied at Syracuse University School of Visual and Performing Arts and graduated in 1993 and began traveling the world. In addition to contract work in illustration, graphic design and web design for major companies, Evans has conceptualized and illustrated numerous children’s books. Many of the books have been featured in the media such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, NBA Inside Stuff, Reading Rainbow and Late Night with David Letterman. Shane has received much acclaim within the children’s literary field for his work on children’s books such as “Osceola,” “The Way The Door Closes,” “Shaq and the Beanstalk” and “Take It To The Hoop Magic Johnson.” His accolades range from being honored by First Lady Laura Bush at the 2002 National Book Festival, The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and The Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction for Children.

Shane Evans’s talent does not stop at illustration and children’s books. His design work includes unique, one-of-a-kind hand crafted furniture pieces, clothing, CD cover art, photography and a number of other custom made items.

Evans’s work is influenced by his travels to Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and throughout the United States. Firmly believing in education and creative development for all people, Evans has produced a unique presentation designed to share his gift with all ages, cultures, ethnic groups and backgrounds. His presentations and workshops are specifically tailored to each audience and combine storytelling, art projects and slide presentations from his own work and world travel.