What Is A Refugee? (Elise Gravel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What Is A Refugee? by Elise Gravel, a look at what it means to be a displaced person for young readers.

Little ones may hear adults throw around the word “refugee” a lot – but what is a refugee? In simple yet powerful images and text, this nonfiction title explains that refugees are people of all ages, races, faiths, and abilities who have been displaced from their homes. Sometimes war has destroyed their homes and made their lives unsafe; sometimes they were standing up for their beliefs and people wanted to hurt them because of it. Oftentimes, they don’t want to leave their homes: they may have to leave family members and loved ones behind, and make dangerous journeys to safer countries. And frequently, the countries they flee to are unwelcoming or unsafe in other ways. But in the end, what a refugee really is… is a person. Someone who wants to work, learn, and live in safety and peace, just like everybody else.

Wonderful. Complex issues like the refugee crisis can often be difficult to explain to children (and even to adults), and Gravel does a wonderful job of taking a complicated issue and making it accessible for little readers. The illustrations are strikingly unambiguous – families are shown fleeing explosions, a cityscape is under fire from rockets, a family tearfully parts ways – yet the cartoonish style keeps the images from being too intense, striking a delicate balance of being deeply affecting without being age-inappropriate. Natural disasters, environmental factors, and gang violence are left off the list of causes for refugees to be displaced, but otherwise this book hits the mark very well, and can help answer difficult question that perceptive youngsters can have both honestly and with empathy. Backmatter features notable refugees through history and, brilliantly, short interviews with refugee children that show how much they share in common with young readers. The length is fine for any age, and JJ was very engaged with the art and text. A straightforward, necessary, and heartfelt guide, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

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