Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Looking for books, workshop materials and ideas to explore in Refugee Week?

The Oxford English Dictionary has declared 'Refugee' children's word of the year 2016

It is a poignant fact in our world that the word 'refugee' is known to the youngest child and is experienced by so many millions of children, many of whom travel alone and are in great danger. 

This time last year I wrote a blog post for Book Trust inspired by working with artist Jane Ray with refugees and migrants at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants where we are artist and writer in residence.

Taken on 'The Refugees Welcome' March . These children held their banners with pride.

From Jide Jackson in 'Artichoke Hearts' (a refugee from Rwanda) to Aisha (an unaccompanied refugee from Somalia in ' Red Leaves,' to a stage adaptation of 'The Arrival' I have explored the stories of children and families forced to leave their homelands through war or economic hardship. Telling stories of exile and  the search for a safe place to call home is central to my stories and those of many other writers. There are some wonderful picture books, novels and plays that explore refugee experience with subtlety, empathy and compassion. With the help of  librarian friends I have put together this small collection of ideas, links, resources and articles. There are books I know and love here and many I am looking forward to reading.

Graphic novels and Picture Books - Some personal favourites

Picture books I love on the experience of exile, odyssey and migration.

'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan
I love this book so much. It is for all humans about the universal story of migration. For a beautiful visual tour of the book see The Guardian gallery:

Here is a link to the stage adaptation co-created by myself and Kristine Landon Smith for Tamasha Theatre Company and Circus Space. The play script is available from Bloomsbury and has been performed  by schools and colleges adding students own stories.

'Footpath Flowers' by Jon Arno Lawson and Sydney Smith
This gentle, hopeful book has been given free to every Syrian Refugee in  Canada by IBBY Canada

'Ahmed and the Feather Girl' by Jane Ray
A magical and beautiful tale of the right for all children to be safe and free

Alpha by Barroux Bessora  
A heartfelt and beautifully drawn story of the epic journeys refugees face. 
'Alpha is emblematic of the refugee crisis today ”“  Nicky Parker Publlisher Amnesty.

A Book List on Refugee experience by Islington Libraries and Free Word.

Recommends by Librarians:

Sean Edwards  – Principal Librarian Children and Youth, Wood Green Library, Haringey 'one to watch out for' recommend is 'The Bone Sparrow' by Zana Fraillon about an 11 year old child born in an Australian refugee camp. To be published in 2017

Pam Dix - Chair of IBBY
The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis (Stories from Afghanistan)

Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland

'The Good Braider' by Terry Farish (Published by Skyscape in the USA.) An epic and poignant journey from war torn Sudan to America. 

Gill Ward, Senior Librarian of Fortismere school recommends: 
'Gaye Hicyilmaz writes excellently about the refugee experience, eg. 'The Frozen Waterfall' and 'Girl in Red.'  But my favourite still has to be 'The Weight of Water' by Sarah Crossan, a story about alienation and an amazing girl.'

2016 Carnegie Winner Sarah Crossan has been to Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants to a book group at the centre. Members loved hearing her read and talk about her work. All could relate to this beautiful story of a young girl integrating into a new society.  

#Refugeeweek at Southbank Centre

Museum Visit

A moving and informative, interactive exhibition telling the stories and journeys of refugee people into Calais.

When I visited the museum in London a school group were just leaving. They and their teachers were all so moved by their experience. I challenge anyone to leave this exhibition un-moved.

To find out more:

Book lists, articles and Blog posts

Guardian Article 
What if it was you? Gillian Cross author of 'After Tomorrow'

14 children's books on refugee experience from Humane Education


Book List for Refugee Week

Book Trust 

Written during my Writer in Residence period at Book Trust:

Books that help children navigate our complex world.
Diverse characters in fiction
Blog about Miriam Halahmy's work, and her novel ' Hidden'  Hidden tells the story of two teenagers who hide an asylum seeker to save him from being deported.

Mirrors and Windows 


Refugee Council
Films, stories, Teaching resources to use in the classroom.

Amnesty International

8 Educational Resources to better understand the refugee situation

Using Fiction to talk about Human Rights 

Book List, description and resources

Kate Greenaway and Carnegie Shortlist - novels with Human Rights hearts

Events in and around Refugee Week

I am Writer in Residence at Islington centre for refugees and migrants. the Centre offers practical support, education, friendship and sanctuary for refugees and migrants. I work with celebrated illustrator Jane Ray - Artist in Residence in the art and creative writing class.

For Refugee Week these are events that we are involved in as part of the wonderful community that is Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants where Jane and I run a weekly session together.

Full details of these events and more are on Islington Centre website


View this moving film with Patron Juliet Stevenson following a day in the life of Betty who attends the art and writing group

The exhibition 'Drawing Our Stories' features paintings, photography and writings by refugee people at the centre from the art and writing workshop.

'Stories of Each Other: Do We Care?'

Eve of Referendum  - artists and communities  in solidarity
Free Word - Wed 22nd June 6 - 10pm
Members of Islington Centre will join poets. novelists and community activists and those working in the refugee sector to read from their work followed by panel discussion. All proceeds go to Islington Centre For Refugees and Migrants.

Book a place at: .

The event will include an exhibition 'Drawing Our Stories' (Previously exhibited at Amnesty International HQ) featuring paintings, photography and writings by refugee people at the centre from the art and writing workshop run by artists and writer in residence Jane Ray and Sita Brahmachari.

'All on a Journey'
World Harmony Orchestra and Islington Centre Choir
Tuesday 5 July - 7.30pm
Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants, Cross Street Baptist Church, London, N1 2BG
Music related to refugees and exile: Two world premieres by Arian, a Syrian refugee composer. Songs performed by the Refugee Choir from the Centre, composed by Romain Malan, inspired by the work of members of the art and writing workshop led by Sita Brahmachari and Jane Ray at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants.

'Drawing Our Stories' exhibition of art and writing from the class previously at Amnesty International and Free Word will be on display here too. 
To Book your ticket: