Azzi in Between
By Sarah Garland
‘There was a country at war, and that is where this story begins.’ Azzi’s homeland is no longer safe. She and her family must embark on a dangerous journey and start over in an unfamiliar land. This strange new country means a new language, a new home and a new school. And, for Azzi, it also means a life without her beloved Grandma. Told in graphic novel format and based on the author’s experience of meeting with refugee families in New Zealand. Amnesty endorsed. Winner of the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award 2012.
What we like about it
With 149,765 refugees and 18,196 pending asylum cases in the UK (2012, UNHCR), these stories need to be told!
The accessible graphic format and superbly detailed illustrations embrace a wide group of readers including reluctant or disenchanted readers and, appropriately, readers whose first language may not be English.
A powerful story of flight and asylum, which a great many children will recognise – if not through their own experiences then through those of their friends. The clever and deliberate omission of country names give the story an immediacy and universality.
Whilst it never shies away from the obstacles, challenges and fears faced by refugees/asylum seekers, the story is also hopeful, with an open ending which imagines an easier future.
Thoughtful and well-researched, this is a great discussion prompter and therefore also an ideal resource book for schools.
Questions and learning points
How realistic a portrayal of asylum-seeking is this? A support worker who speaks Azzi’s language is found very quickly as is an apartment for the family (there are no detention centres here!)
Assessing this story alongside the wider context of children’s books, what impressions might a child (esp. one who may be unaware of the issues) form of refugees/asylum-seekers/migrants? Are such stories universally bleak? Do they portray migrants/refugees simply getting on with their lives in the new host country?
Does the immediacy and pace of the graphic format work well for such a story? Does it contribute to or lessen its realism/relevance?
How does a story like this compare with another picture book asylum story such as The Silence Seeker (Tamarind, 2009)?
Have you read this book? Add your thoughts.