A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too. A powerful and moving exploration that draws the young reader into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make.
There is something very powerful about picture books. They can sometimes be some of the first books that your child or even you, yourself, will remember reading. I know that I recall strongly my favourite picture book. So it is really wonderful when picture books also start educating children – not about Maths or English or other school subjects – but about different parts of society. If it teaches children that while there are many different walks of life, we’re all human despite our differences in our skin colour, body shape, social background and sexuality, then it’s going to give them a good start to life.
Thus I always love stumbling across picture books that manage this. So when I heard about My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. I needed to read it and see what the book is all about. And it is everything I love about picture books.
It’s entertaining, informative, and full of imagination too. The book follows a child who has to leave home behind and then learn a new language and a new culture and learn not to be terrified of the experience. It asks the reader questions along the way, such as: “What would you pack in your backpack of possessions?” This allows the reader to understand what the other child may be going through. Would they choose their favourite book or their favourite teddy bear if they can’t pack both?
On top of that, Kate hasn’t identified where the child has come from or where they’ve ended up. So it’s a way for refugees of any culture to identify themselves in the book which is absolutely fantastic and is exactly what makes this book so very powerful. It’s inclusive – just as every book should be.
All in all, this is a very powerful, imaginative, and relevant book that is a must read for adults and children alike to understand society further.
Reviewed by Faye