Today’s book comes from Austria and is another book that is yet to be translated: Flucht (Flight) by Niki Glattauer and Verena Hochleitner (Tyrolia Verlag).
Dominic (7): They are leaving their home because their country is in war. It must be bad where they are living. They are not taking much stuff with them. I think travelling on the sea must be a bit scary.
The books opens with:
Katzen haben sieben Leben, heiβt es, darum haben sie mich mitgenommen. Vater hat gesagt: Das wären dann elf. Die können wir auf dem Meer gut brauchen. Er hat es lustig gemeint, aber niemand hat gelacht.
Cats have nine lives, that‘s why they’ve brought me along. Father said: “That makes thirteen. They’ll be handy when we’re on the sea.” He meant it to be funny but nobody laughed.
This book is a little unusual in as far as the story is told from the cat’s perspective. His name is E.T. like the alien in the film who calls for help. E.T. leads us through the family’s preparations to leave their war-torn home and make the journey across the sea. We are told Daniel’s packing list:
1 pencil case with pencils, crayons and felt-tip pens, 1 notebook, 1 bag of Lego Minecraft, 3 shiny stones, 1 mobile phone, 1 laptop, 1 pair of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts, the Messi T-shirt, 5 other T-shirts, 1 black leather jacket, shoes with the green flashing lights, 1 other pair of shoes, underwear and socks, 4 large bottles of water, 1 small packet of documents and 1 large packet of old photos.
Seeing these items laid out with the rucksack underneath really brought it home for me how very little this family are taking with them but also what they are taking. For Daniel, the Lego and his Messi T-shirt, but photos, a phone and a laptop. Sometimes I think we have an image of refugees as people who in their original country had nothing. We perhaps picture them as poor, living in a rundown hut. Of course, some people do live like that, but many come from societies which are, or were, just like ours. I recently read Yusra Mardini’s Butterfly, from Refugee to Olympian, which really helped me to understand that these people fleeing had nice houses, they had laptops and the internet and all the stuff that we have. And this book goes on to confirm that:
“How will we cook noodles if we have no electricity?” Mother asked. “And how will I surf the internet?” asked Suzie.
The illustrations are very effective – one page shows a single small boat on an expanse of blue. Towards the end of the journey, Daniel starts to talk of the water-ghosts, which are a little scary and as such, I decided not to introduce this to Emma. I read one review on Amazon suggesting that this was a book to read with children rather than leave them with and I tend to agree. There is so much discussion that can be had from this book, but younger children might find it too much.
And Glattauer and Hochleitner save the twist in the book right to the end: these people are not fleeing to Europe, but fleeing from Europe to Africa…
To help support refugees and send aid to where it needs to be, please look up Derby Refugee Solidarity: http://www.derbysrefugeesolidarity.org