Night on the Sand

HarperCollins/Clarion. Aug. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328884183.
K-Gr 2–“There was a howl, a dark whirl of wind and power. / It was night, and cold. /We could not find our father, mother. / Only each other.” When their house collapses from a terrifying, unspecified disaster in the middle of the night, two young brothers cannot find their parents and make their way to a nearby beach with only a blanket and an orange. In the morning, they meet other refugees, all dark-haired like them, who start a campfire and share what little food they have; the boys divide up their orange in return. Soon, a rescue boat arrives and takes everyone “to the new we did not know / that waited on the other shore. / We were not alone.” As Mayper indicates in an author’s note at the end of the book, this refugee story “does not try to recount events that happened to specific people at a particular time, focusing instead on our human connection.” That generous message of hope and help is complemented by the stylized illustrations that create a melancholy sense of isolation and disconnect. While the brothers’ bond and closeness is apparent, there is a physical as well as emotional distance between them and the other refugees in the story; even on the rescue boat, the brothers stand side by side but apart from everyone else. Although there is a brief mention of their suppressed grief for their lost parents, and the older brother confides “Inside me too was a raw cry. I could not let it out,” there is hardly any further mention or closure for this devastating event.
VERDICT This work could not be more topical or timely, given the tragically numerous refugee crises, and may share shelf space with Kate Milner’s My Name Is Not Refugee and Yuyi Morales’s Dreamers, which provide more comprehensive and realistically hopeful depictions of the refugee experience.

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