CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 20. . . .February 3, 2017
Where Will I Live?
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, April, 2017.
24 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
Refugee children-Juvenile literature.
Refugee children-Pictorial works.
Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.
Review by Mê-Linh Lê.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
But where will I live?
Will it be down this road... beyond this hill... past this fence... across this sea?
Important and timely, Where Will I Live? focuses on the plight of displaced children from around the world alongside simple text posing questions related to where the children will end up living. The children, whether moving away from dangerous situations in places such as Rwanda or Myanmar or living in refugee camps in Greece or Hungary, are shown via photographs from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The full-page pictures, which are both beautiful and haunting, are accompanied with text by Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Rosemary McCarney.
McCarney has written several children’s books focussing on similar issues of international development, including Every Day is Malala Day and Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red. Where Will I Live? follows the same format as her 2015 book The Way to School, which focused on the challenges that many children worldwide must overcome to receive an education.
While some of the pictures show the stark reality of the living situations for these children, there are also images of children finding joy where they can, whether it is through friends or a game. The latter will help children reading the book to perhaps better relate to the children featured in the book as friends and games are a universal concept. While the book tackles hard topics and shows some truly desperate situations, it does end on a high note by writing that many of these children will hopefully soon be living in a new country where they may encounter smiling faces and welcoming people.
The release of Where Will I Live? could not come at a better time. Every day, the news shows horrifying scenes of the destruction of, and mass exodus from, Aleppo and other cities and regions from around the world. At the same time, Canada has been accepting thousands of refugees and helping them start a new life here. As such, the conversations that can arise from this type of book between parents and their children are important to have. Whether those conversations focus on the great fortune that most children in Canada have simply as a result of being born here, or how we, as individuals and families, can assist those in need, or the responsibilities we have as citizens of the world to help those less fortunate, is up to the readers. However, what is important is that those conversations are happening.
A minor quibble is the inconsistencies in the punctuation and phrasing of the questions as it throws off the reading somewhat. In some cases, multi-part questions (“Will I live under a carpet... beneath some stairs? Will I live in a tent... or a whole city of tents?) are spread across multiple pages. In other cases, similar questions are broken into individual questions (one per page).
In short, Canadians have played a crucial role in welcoming refugee children and their families to our country. No doubt many of our children will soon be in school with these newcomers or are studying and playing alongside them already. Books like Where Will I Live? that can prompt discussions at home with our children of the many varied countries, cultures, and peoples will hopefully lead to better and more empathetic relationships as well as a desire to help make these families feel comfortable and welcome in their new home.
Mę-Linh Lę is a librarian at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB. She spends a lot of time negotiating “How many books?” with her three young children.
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