The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna
Published by Flying Eye Books
Purchased for my school library with grant funding
Sanna's picture book is a magnificently illustrated, compelling picture book about the deeply tragic, increasingly common experience of refugees. When war  takes over the narrator's country, then takes her father, her mother makes the difficult decision to escape to another country. Packing their car with all their belongings, they flee, leaving possessions behind as they go. Over mountains, over border walls in the dark of the night, money changing hands, they travel on. A ferry packed with so many people takes them to a train, traveling over more borders. As the book ends, the narrator looks up at a flock of migrating birds, wishing one day, like the birds, to find a new home, "A home where we can be safe and begin their story again."
Sanna's illustrations are magical, yet often heartbreaking. As the family, the narrator, her brother and their mother, flee, several pages show their travel, going from driving in their own car, their belongings strapped to the roof, to hiding in the cars and trucks of others, to riding a bicycle and eventually walking. The continual movement, punctuated by dark nights, huddled together, include images of the mother, comforting her children wrapped in her arms, the narrator telling readers her mother is never scared. A second illustration shows the children asleep, tears streaming from their mother's eyes. At times, it's hard to hold the reality of the refugee experience with the fairy tale, magical realism of Sanna's beautiful illustrations. 

Ending her book before the narrator finds a new, safer home, Sanna makes the point that the refugee experience does not end in a new country.  In fact, her second book, Me and My Fear, (link to review below) explores these challenges from the viewpoint of a young - possibly the same - narrator. Sanna's author's note shares that she had the experience of meeting two girls in a refugee center in her native Italy. After hearing their story, she began seeking out more stories of migration, interviewing many people from many different countries. The Journey is a "collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them."

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