________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 25 . . . . March 10, 2017


Seeking Refuge.

Irene N. Watts. Illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 2017.
128 pp., trade pbk., $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-926890-02-9.

Subject Headings:
World War 1939-1945-Refugees-Comic books, strips, etc.
World War 1939-1945-Refugees-Juvenile fiction.
Kindertransports (Rescue operations)-Comic books, strips, etc.
Kindertransports (Rescue operations)-Juvenile fiction.
Graphic novels.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Carmelita Cechetto-Shea.

***½ /4


Seeking Refuge: A Graphic Novel is an adaptation of Irene Watts' book/play Remember Me. It is the sequel to Watts' very successful graphic novel Goodbye Marianne. All three titles are connected by a common theme (Kindertransport) and main character (Marianne). The book opens to images of a London, England train station, with arrivals of children on the "Kindertransport" train. The first chapter is entitled "Like animals at the zoo", and that phrase is spoken by one of the new arrivals after they enter the station. The year is 1938, and these children are "lucky" as they escaped Nazi Germany. The children are Jewish, and the purpose of the Kindertransport was to take Jewish children to safety as war clouds gather in Europe. Being "lucky" is a paradox as the children arrive without the adults in their life, starting a new life in a strange place where language will be a barrier as the first hurdle they will face.

      Marianne is lonely. She misses her parents, her home, and friends. She must now learn English and work as a domestic in a home where she thought she would be part of the "family" unit. When World War II breaks out, Marianne is sent to South Wales. As she shuffles from family to family, she wonders if life will ever have anything hopeful to look forward to. In the end, Marianne's determination, courage and resilience conquer all the trials and hardships she has endured, a reward which is a big surprise for this spunky and strong 11-year-old refugee.

      Irene Watts has taken the Kindertransport story and brought it to reality in the story of Marianne. The events in this novel are real, taken from various accounts of children like Marianne who lived during this time period. Life in a new place wasn't easy for any of the refugee children. The author also writes from experience as she, herself, was a Kindertransport child who left Germany, arriving in England, and eventually immigrating to Canada. Hence, the story has personal connections and offers validity as readers see the story of being a Kindertransport child through the eyes of someone who lived it. The text is easy to read and very reflective for a child at that age, especially one from a different country and culture. Watts evokes some humour within the novel, even if the reader only provides a little chuckle at what is being read. When Marianne's first "new parent" takes her home, she goes to 12 Circus Road". This street address causes Marianne to remember a joke her grandfather told her about the circus where they are training seals to bark "Heil Hitler". More references to the troubles Marianne left behind appear when she gets lost in the park. She sees a bench and decides to sit down especially since it doesn't say "For Aryans Only". Marianne can't seem to shake off her fears and even has dreams with Hitler in them. Even the inclusion of the pig is treated with sensitivity and compassion, a reference to the Jewish custom of not eating pork. The ending was not totally a surprise, but more of a welcome relief as readers learn that one must always keep hoping and never give up.

      The illustrations are set in black and white, projecting a rather dark feeling, perfect for a story on the Holocaust and the Kindertransport. The simple, uncomplicated pictures tell the story even when there is no text to accompany it. Each image is clear, reflective, and able to evoke readers' imaginations to close their eyes and "feel" like they are immersed in the story. All the drawings complement the story without providing distress, fear, or horror, even when the story could have easily gone that way (e.g. Hitler in the dream). Although graphic novels are often telling a more complex story or plot, Seeking Refuge: A Graphic Novel doesn't feel heavy or weighed down with too much detail or uneasiness. Graphic novels tell a complete story through a combination of illustration art and text, and this book does exactly that.

      Seeking Refuge: A Graphic Novel is an excellent book that brings to life the story of the refugee children during World War II. The novel speaks volumes of the hardships faced by these children both in Europe and in their new land. The Kindertransport was a very successful program during World War II, one that saw over 10,000 children saved from the possible doom of extermination at the hands of Nazi Germany. These children came from countries like Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, and many often never saw their families again. Seeking Refuge: A Graphic Novel is a most worthy purchase for public and school libraries, and it would be an excellent resource for classroom discussions.

Highly Recommended.

Carmelita Cechetto-Shea is the Library Consultant for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, Sydney, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - March 10, 2017.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive