An intriguing study of Australia’s boat people across the ages

refugeTITLE = REFUGE

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = REFUGEES, MIGRATION, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7+

Faris is one of the boat people on his way to Australia with his grandmother. Fleeing their homeland, where violence and terror reign, they hope to meet his father who has fled to Australia some years earlier. They have spent their last remaining money to pay for passage on a flimsy, overcrowded boat; so when a storm hits them, Faris fears for his life and blacks out.

Thus begins this moving story about Australia’s long history of boat people. For when Faris awakens he finds himself in a kind of dreamland: living in the picture perfect Australia that he has always imagined – big houses, plenty of food and koalas and kangaroos roaming the streets. On a nearby beach he comes across a group of children like himself…yet different. Each one of these children has landed on this stretch of coast, each one was fleeing a moment of great terror, each one needed refuge from violence or fear before they could face the harsh reality of their lives.

AS Faris learns the stories of these other children he realises that he is not alone in seeking asylum in Australia: one may be a convict from Australia’s early times, one may be fleeing violence in Sudan, one may be setting out from Greece or Sri Lanka or Ireland. All of these children have seen desperate times, all must grow up fast if they are to survive.

In this book, Jackie French reminds us that we have a long history of migration, a long history of boat people; she puts a human face on a terrible political reality. This book may slip into a type of fantasy world in the coming together of so many characters from different time periods but the truth behind the story is very real. Beautifully told and with plenty to ponder. AS usual, the notes provided by the author at the end of the book, will add even greater depth and meaning to this thoughtful tale.

No wonder this book gained a Notables listing in the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****     

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I am a teacher-librarian in a government school. I love reading and talking about books ... to anyone who will listen!

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