Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Refugee Day – June 20, 2010

The U.N. Refugee Agency has chosen the theme of HOME – “They have taken my home but they can't take my future”, to mark this year’s World Refugee Day on 20 June.

I’ll take any opportunity to make recommendations for some of my favorite books, especially those that touch on social issues.  This June 20th, the United Nations is looking to increase awareness about the plight of refugees, centered on the theme of home.

The first book I’d strongly recommend is Home of the brave by Katherine Applegate (823 Ap53H FIC).  It’s told using narrative verse, about Kek, a young Sudanese refugee, who has just arrived in the United States with few possessions but, nevertheless, carrying a lot of baggage.  His primary concern is finding his mother who remains missing in Africa.  By nature an optimist, Kek begins to redefine and rediscover his sense of home, as he makes friends, finds a place in the community and takes on the care of sad and lonely cow who reminds him of his community in Sudan.  Humorous, touching, and downright sad at times, we learn a lot about the meaning of home in this novel for ages 10-13.

Four feet, two sandals  by Karen Lynn Williams (823 W6733F PIC BK) is a picture book relating what the daily grind in a refugee camp is like for two Afghani girls, brought together when they each receive one of a pair of sandals.  By sharing the sandals, their friendship grows and we discover what stories and hopes they bring to their new lives.  A really wonderful partnership between story and illustrations.  I recommend this for grades 2-6.

My last suggestion is The Arrival by Shaun Tan (823 T155A FIC) which I recommend every chance I get.  I love the potential this book embodies.  Because this is a story told without words, a graphic novel, kids of varying ages (grades 3/4 and up) and reading abilities can ‘read’ this book.  Topics and themes that could be discussed are: refugees/immigrants, home, family, daily life, relationships, kindness, compassion, adapting to new circumstances, resiliency, community fantasy, storytelling - the list can go on, I’m sure.  The illustrations are incredibly detailed, giving us a sense of a very different place and time that allows for multiple interpretations by individual readers.  Did I mention that I love this book?  Really…

All three books look at what home means, especially when it is threatened and taken away.  All three books give hope that the lives of the books’ characters will change for the better.

To read more about World Refugee Day, please go to The UN Refugee Agency website.


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