In 2018, my kids and I carried out 30 day challenge reviewing 30 books in 30 for #WorldKidLitMonth. This was one of the books we looked at and I think it’s one that’s worth revisiting for #WorldKdiLitMonth 2020. This picture book comes from Austria and is yet to be translated: Flucht (Flight) by Niki Glattauer and Verena Hochleitner (Tyrolia Verlag).
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 and shown an illustration of what is on 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, pants and socks, 4 large bottles of water, 1 small envelope of documents and
1 large envelope 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 we have an image of refugees as people who had nothing to begin with. We perhaps picture them as poor, living in a rundown hut in the middle of nowhere. Of course, some people do live like that, but many come from societies which are, or were, just like ours. And if I were leaving in a hurry, I know I’d grab my mobile phone – it’s a map, a torch, a phone, a camera and I can use it to access my emails – an essential piece of kit!
The illustrations are very powerful – one page shows a single small boat on an expanse of blue.
What is really powerful about this book comes right at the end (spoiler alert!). Throughout the book, we as the reader make assumptions about who these people are and where they come from. Perhaps it’s Syria, perhaps it’s Africa. But Glattauer and Hochleitner turn this on its head, revealing that the family are not fleeing from Africa to Europe, but from Europe to Africa. It challenges us to consider how we would respond to such events: what would we do? And I think it’s really important to do this, to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and empathise with them.
What my (then) eight-year-old son had to say:
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.
For any interested publishers, the English rights for this book are still available from Tyrolia Verlag and I have a mocked up book with my translation available. Please get in touch!
For more World Kid Lit titles, you can also visit the World Kid Lit blog.
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