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Migrants by Issa Watanabe

Yesterday, I placed a book in the hands of a friend who had dropped by. ‘Read’ was all I said.

The book was a wordless one and it left her speechless, as it had me.

She looked up, her eyes brimming with tears.

“No words”, she said.

Then again, "No words, makes this all the more moving.” . As I was browsing the bookshelves of the children's gift shop at the Tate Modern (I seemed to have been drawn to there rather than the 'grown-ups' one) my eyes fell on this one that I had first seen shared on my friend Parul Kaushik's feed. . I picked it up and took it to a nearby table, and was pulled hard into the story line by the power of it’s moving illustrations.

. Issa Watanabe’s illustrations are breath-taking…literally.

They will make you gasp as you turn each page. Pages filled with fright and flight, dread and determination, despair and hope, loneliness and togetherness, self and selflessness, darkness and light as it traces the journey of a group of refugees, across land and sea.

Accompanying them is death, which I inferred from the skeleton faced character and his companion, an ibis…a bird often used to symbolise the human soul.

Set against a black background, the book features anthropomorphic characters...each featured in unique details.

I wanted each character to have their own identity defined by each detail: the care I gave to clothes, the choice of colours, and the characters’ expressions. The first thing that happens with migrants is that they are turned into numbers, or morph into a faceless human mass, which we cannot identify with.” - Issa Watanabe.

The details in the expressions, body language, the colours of the flora in the background, tug hard at the readers heart and pulls you into the story, into the footsteps of the refugees. A book that manages to speak to the reader, without a single word.

. Stark, beautiful, raw …Migrants packs a punch. . Given that it’s symbolism may not be easy for younger children to understand, I would recommend using this along with The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, The Journey by Francesca Sanna, The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros and/or When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed.



Social Awareness - Perspective-taking, empathy, respect for others

Responsible Decision Making - Ethical responsibility

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