Tuesday 28 February 2012

The Little Refugee

I was very excited to find a copy of this book sitting on the top of the shelf at my library. I'd been meaning to read the adult version of this book (The Happiest Refugee) since it was published in 2010. But, well, I haven't. And I probably won't get to it anytime soon, though I would still like to. So I set my aims slightly lower- I'd read the picture book version. Junior versions of adult books is quite a big phenomenon. There's been a lot recently- Mao's Last Dancer was an adult biography, that turned into a beautiful picture book. Several of Tim Flannery's books have morphed into junior nonfiction books too- albeit aimed a bit higher than the picture book set. 

Anh Do is a well known Australian comedian. His family journeyed to Australia as boat people after the Vietnam War. The early sections of the story- in Vietnam, about the war, and the family's perilous voyage in a smelly fishing boat are all illustrated in somber tones- mainly sepia, with occasional page a murky, dull grey/green.

The arrival of the Do family in Australia is signified by a change to vibrant colour. There are of course still obstacles to overcome- poverty, settling in to school in a strange country in an unfamiliar language. But ultimately it's about optimism and hope, and fitting in to a new society or school, even if your uniform isn't right to start with, and your English isn't great.

Which is an important message when the arrival of every new boat of asylum seekers is announced repeatedly in the media, and provokes a certain amount of hysteria and frenzy. Boat people are still a big political issue in Australia.

An Illustrated Year is hosted by An Abundance of Books.

1 comment:

Margot said...

This book reminds me of another book I read about refugees coming to Australia. This one is a graphic novel: The Arrival by Shaun Tan. He also used black and white, then sepia, and finally color to help tell the story. I enjoyed that book enormously. I'm going to see if our library has the children's version of The Happiest Refugee. I just thought of another refugee story: Inside Out and Back Again. In that story the family were refugees from Vietnam to the US. It won the children's award from the National Book Awards last Fall.