Like a turtle, Salih carries his "home" on his back. He must travel along roads, through fields and deserts then cross a raging sea in search of a safe home. He learns to paint his happiest memories and sends them as messages in bottles. Will someone find them? Will he find a new home?
The theme of this children's book by Inda Ahmad Zahri is a global issue - the plight of refugees. It is handled sensitively and would make a good starting point for discussion of this serious topic. It's narrated in the first person and the reader/listener views the world from the child Salih's perspective. It's a story of overcoming difficulties and will elicit empathy and hopefully an appreciation of diversity.
The refugees are fleeing with their memories – some happy (like singing and gardens), some best forgotten. Emotions jump from anger and fear to close feelings of kindness, friendships and family. Anne Ryan's illustrations in Salih move between fond memories, the trauma of fleeing and hope for the future. Her visual metaphors and symbolism (such as rainbows and the turtle) take us on a cultural journey as well as geographical one.
This is another beautiful children's picture book from Aussie company Ford Street Publishing. It's suitable for kids aged over six years old.
Inda Ahmad Zahri
About the Author Inda Ahmad Zahri is of Malaysian heritage who writes and illustrates for children and adults. Her stories are inspired by natural and cultural experiences from her travels. In her spare time, this impressive woman is a surgical doctor! Indra said, "This book is written as a message of hope for refugees embarking on dangerous journeys to find peace and safety. I began learning about refugees by volunteer programmes at university, and continue to learn about the evolving crisis affecting so many innocent families."
About the Illustrator Anne Ryan is an author and artist. She is passionate about sharing storytelling and creativity with children through art and picture books. Her other books are Unforeseen Circumstances, Shadowcast, and Moonfish.