Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

I first heard of this title from Nadine Bailey, Canadian International School’s Librarian Extraordinaire who blogs at InformativeFlights. I believe it was during our panel at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content this year when she mentioned it, and I vowed to myself that I would find this picturebook stat. I only had a chance to do it fairly recently, and as to be expected, I loved it.

Stormy Seas: Stories Of Young Boat Refugees

Written by: Mary Beth Leatherdale Illustrated by: Eleanor Shakespeare
Published by: Annick Press, 2017
ISBN-10: 1554518954 (ISBN13: 9781554518951)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This nonfiction title features five stories in all, highlighting five narratives coming from different countries across different time periods. I find this to be very effective as the narratives are also juxtaposed against a historical timeline (starting from the 1600s to 2016) of various people migrating from one country to another, traveling by boat – either caused by famine, war, terrorism, persecution among others.

Within this larger worldwide context, the authors highlighted five narratives: that of Ruth, 18 years old who left her hometown Breslau, Germany in 1939 for the US via Cuba (who refused to grant them entry). Then there is Phu who left Saigon, Vietnam in 1979 when he was 14 years old as war raged on between North and South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975, and eventually traveled to California.

José left his home in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba in 1980 when he was 13 years old and sought refuge in New York City. Najeeba left her home in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 2000 when she was eleven years old to avoid the killing spree of the Talibans and sought refuge in Australia. Then there is Mohamed, who was 13 years old when he left Libya (Maple, Ivory Coast) to seek sanctuary in Italy in 2006.

Each story follows a specific format: it begins with a quote from the person himself or herself, followed by the story of their journey and what it took for them to leave their homes, a timeline of their journey in terms of numbers/statistics (number of people on the boat, number of days at sea, number of months in a refugee camp), what happened to them upon their relocation, then ending with more numbers focused on the outcome of the war in their respective home countries.

The format helps a great deal as well as the overall layout that appeared somewhat like a newsletter, chunking the information into bite-size pieces that even the more reluctant readers would be drawn to read. I honestly feel that we need more stories like these to personalize people’s narratives, and to see beyond the label ‘refugee’ and to first regard each other as human beings in need, urging us to reflect deeply on how we can best respond in kindness and compassion.

Here is a book trailer I found in Youtube – hope this convinces you to get the book for your libraries soonest, if my review had not enticed you enough:


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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

3 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Finding Sanctuary Even In “Stormy Seas”

  1. I just put this on hold, Myra, know it will be a book that will pair well with Refugee. Thank you!


  2. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] My 2017 in Books, Reading Stats, and Best Books Read in 2017 Across Genres – Gathering Books

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