Friday, January 25, 2019

Review - From Far Away

From Far Away
by Robert Munsch & Saoussan Askar
illustrated by Rebecca Green
Date: 1995
Publisher: Annick Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

When Saoussan immigrated with her family from war-torn Lebanon, she was only seven years old. This picture book tells the story of how she had to adjust to her new home in Canada. She describes the frustration of not understanding the teacher when she started school, not knowing how to ask to go to the bathroom, and being terrified of a Hallowe'en skeleton. This is the perfect book to help kids empathize with immigrant children whose experiences are very similar to Saoussan's.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've read plenty of Robert Munsch's picture books, but this one is a little different. Written in conjunction with Saoussan Askar, From Far Away is a mini memoir about Saoussan's journey and integration into Canadian society after fleeing war-torn Lebanon with her family. It's a book that is just as timely today, especially with the current refugee crises around the world.

The story talks a little bit about why Saoussan and her family had to leave their home, but most of the story is about the girl's struggles in her new country. She didn't speak any English at first, so she had a hard time understanding what to do and didn't always understand what was going on (the paper skeleton in her school scared her pretty badly). As children do, though, she picked up the language and began to make friends.

It's awful when a child has to say things like "nobody shot at us the whole time" when they go to the zoo. The sad reality is that many children don't have the safety and security that many others take for granted. That part of the story struck me the most, I think, and it left me wondering how many Saoussans are out there right now, hoping for a place to live where they can go about their lives without having to worry about being killed at any moment.

The illustrations are different in this one. Most of my favourite Munsch books have been illustrated by Michael Martchenko, but his funny, upbeat style wouldn't really fit here, so I can see why a different illustrator was used. The pictures are nice, and help to tell the story well. I didn't love them, but they're perfectly adequate.

Overall, this is an important book that's still relevant today. The people currently fleeing violence might not be from Lebanon, but their hopes and dreams are probably similar. Every child should be able to find a safe home where they can grow up to reach their potential. (The edition I read is from 2017, and it features a little note in the back from Saoussan that tells us what she's been up to since the book was first published in 1995.)

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5

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