What Is a Refugee?

Schwartz & Wade/Random/. Sept. 2019. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593120057.
PreS-Gr 2–Beginning with age-appropriate descriptions of the reasons refugees must leave home, including war and persecution, this narrative explores the difficulties of leaving loved ones and finding a new home. The book shows that being a refugee involves hardship and sometimes rejection from other countries or waiting in camps before hopefully finding a new life in a safe place. Digitally rendered illustrations depict refugees of various ages, races, and physical characteristics. The situations they face are shown in representative ways: neither the text nor illustrations identify any specific refugee groups or resettling countries. The end matter features quotes from modern-day refugee children and short biographies of famous refugees. Gravel introduces a globally important concept in a comprehensible way for young readers. A minor weakness is that many of the scenarios are presented in a past-tense narrative which can render the text a bit distant. The refugee experience would be more powerfully voiced in the present tense. Still, this book is an effective and compassionate introduction to this topic.
VERDICT With simple text and vibrant illustrations, this picture book introduces young readers to refugees as “people, just like you and me.” An excellent purchase for all libraries serving young children.

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