Children’s book review: On the run
A little girl lives in an area where war is breaking out. She is very scared and flees on a raft across the sea, her cuddly toy is the only thing she can take with her. She is going to live in another country. It takes time, but very slowly she starts to feel at home in her new environment. We read and see a lot about refugees on radio and television. This picture book shows how frightened and sad children are who have to flee from a war zone and how important it is that they feel happy and safe again in their new country, even if it will take a while. The book is suitable for explaining to children from the age of five, but it is also a book that can be used to talk to a child who has fled. It is important that a child goes through the book with an adult, because you do not know which emotions follow the story. The book should have a place in every school library.
Data from the book On the run
- Text: Pimm van Hest
- Illustrations: Aron Dijkstra
- Publisher: Clavis
- Published: 2017
- Number of pages: 28
- ISBN: 978-90-448-2861-0
- Suitable for: children from about 5 years (under supervision, as it is a heavy story)
About the writer, Pimm van Hest
Pimm van Hest was born on August 25, 1975 in Veldhoven. After high school, he follows a teacher training course for primary education. During his senior year he wrote a children’s book as a graduation assignment: The Mysterious Adventures of Keob and His Friends. Pimm teaches for a year and then goes to study psychology in Tilburg. In his spare time he works in a bookshop. In 2008 Pimm and his partner Eduard adopt a girl: Moira. Pimm got the idea to make a picture book about adoption, because there is little information material for adopted children who come up with questions. The book will be entitled Rosita. After the birth of Moira, Pimm stays at home full-time and is engaged in writing, among other things.
About the illustrator, Aron Dijkstra
Aron Dijkstra was born in 1992 in Sneek. As a child he made up stories and made drawings to accompany them. Aron moved to Rotterdam in 2011 and completed a study Illustration at the Willem de Kooning Academy in 2015. In 2016, Aaron made his debut as a writer and illustrator at Clavis publishing house with the picture book Ridder Roel de dragkenvechter. As an illustrator, Aaron has a preference for pencil, ink and paint (traditional materials). Aron Dijkstra works as a museum guide at the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam.
Publisher Clavis is one of the largest children’s and youth book publishers in the Dutch language area. Clavis has offices in Hasselt, Amsterdam and New York.
The content of the book
Imagine it’s war where you live. Your city or village is destroyed, set on fire or hit by bombs. Even your street is hit. There will be feelings of sadness, anger, you will be afraid.
Suddenly your safe house is no longer there. You long to live without fear for a day, a year, preferably a lifetime. Just going back to school, together with friends, just like before. Now you can no longer play in the street, there is hunger, pain and barbed wire.
You have to flee with your family, there is no other solution. But where to and how? Everyone is scared. Your house is no longer your home. You look back again and don’t know if you will ever see your house again. You have to leave everything behind, only a hug comes along.
You go to another country, where a different language is spoken and the food is also different. People welcome you, but there are also people who don’t like to see you. But slowly you get used to it. You get to know the language and new people slowly become new friends. Unnoticed and very slowly, you let go of the fear and you notice that the sun is shining again in the new country. Never run away again.
The text and illustrations
On the front of the book is a bird cage depicted in front of a girl who appears to be sleeping, with a teddy bear in her arms. In big black letters: On the run. The illustrations in the picture book take up a double page. On the first pages, the reader is asked to imagine that it is war, in your country, your village, your city, your street. In addition to this text that makes you think, a girl is drawn who, with a teddy bear in her hand, draws a pigeon on a wall. In the following illustrations she runs away and looks frightened. She seems to be watched by crows, they sit on walls and roofs. There is not much text in the illustrations, but the sentences make it clear that it is very fearful to end up in a war situation. That the girl longs for if only a day without fear. You see her in the classroom with classmates and in the schoolyard playing with other children. They seem like peaceful scenes, but the crows tell otherwise. The girl flees across the sea with her bear on a kind of raft. The girl, the raft and the sea have been kept gray, but there is still some light on the horizon. On the next page, you can see the girl on the raft, drawn very small. Above her crows, stopped by the fence of a cage. Outside the cage, a large white pigeon flies. In the country where the girl ends up, there are people who help her, but also people who are not happy with refugees. Behind this last group you can see the heads of crows in the shadow. The drawings in the back of the book show light and cheerfulness: the text shows that the girl is slowly starting to feel at home and that she is making new friends. The crows seem to have disappeared, you only see pigeons. What is striking in the drawings is that there are almost no adults in them, for example you do not see the parents of the girl. The drawings show the atmosphere that belongs to war, but you do not see dead people or animals, no weapons. In the beginning of the story the illustrations are a bit dark in color, but there is always some light.
Two excerpts from the book
Your home is no longer here
You flee and look back one more time
For the last time?
Leave everything behind
But take a hug
Cuddle keeps you warm
Hug gives you strength
In the middle of the night
In the middle of the sea
You get used to it
Are you learning
The new land
That new language
Knowing new people
Slowly, new people are becoming
Slowly new friends
On the run
A book to inform children about what war can mean for a child. How difficult it will be for a refugee to get into a foreign country, how much fear they bring from their own country. How important it is to give refugees a home again, a sense of security. The book can also help children who have fled.