________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 2. . . .September 15, 2017


Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees.

Mary Beth Leatherdale. Illustrated by Eleanor Shakespeare.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2017.
64 pp., pbk., hc., epub & pdf, $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-895-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-896-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-897-5 (epub), ISBN 978-1-55451-898-2 (pdf).

Subject Headings:
Refugees-Juvenile literature.
Refugee children-Juvenile literature.
Refugees-Anecdotes-Juvenile literature.
Refugee children-Anecdotes-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Linda Ludke.

**** /4



I’m surrounded by water but I have none to drink. We’ve only been at sea for a few hours and already men are fighting. Hundreds of us are crammed on the boat. People are screaming and crying. I have to look after myself. There’s no one here to take care of me. I have to try to make friends. I have to find some food. I have to fight to survive.


This thought provoking nonfiction book opens with some sobering statistics: “Sixty five million of the worlds’ seven billion people … have been forced to leave their homes because of war, persecution, or natural disasters. Nineteen million of these displaced people have no hope of ever returning home safely.” In the chapters that follow, the harrowing accounts of five teenagers who fled their country are profiled. In 1939, 18 year old Ruth escapes the horrors of Nazi Germany by boarding an ocean liner headed to Cuba. However, the SS St. Louis is repeatedly refused entry by several countries. In 1979, 14 year old Phu is smuggled out of Vietnam on an overcrowded boat. Pirates attack the refugees and steal the little food and water they have. In 1980, 13 year old Jose and his family try to immigrate to the United States, but a violent storm nearly capsizes their boat. In 2000, after escaping the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, 11 year old Najeeba is then imprisoned in an immigrant detention center in Australia. In 2006, 13 year old orphan Mohamed leaves the civil war in Ivory Coast and is captured by human traffickers and is held prisoner for four years before receiving asylum in Italy.

     The refugee profiles are gripping and heart-wrenching. First person narration gives a compelling immediacy to the text. Ruth, Phu, Jose, Najeeba and Mohamed seem to be speaking directly to readers, sharing their hopes and dreams and fears. Words such as Mohamed’s pack an emotional punch: “A lot of people don’t understand what it means to suffer hardship because they’ve never experienced it. When you migrate it’s a school of life.” Each of the young people featured will linger in readers’ minds. At the end of each cliff hanging personal account, a “What Happened To” section provides updates for each individual.

     In each chapter, maps, photographs and timelines also provide historical and geographical context. Sidebars offer brief summaries of the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Revolution, the Taliban, and the conflict in Ivory Coast. Eleanor Shakespeare’s affecting collage illustrations have a sepia tone and resemble a scrapbook in layout and design.

     Stormy Seas is an important and powerful book that is sure to spark discussion about the refugee crisis. A must have purchase for school and public libraries.

Highly Recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

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

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