Review Blog

Sep 24 2020

Migrants by Issa Watanabe

cover image

Gecko Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781776573134.
(Age: All) Highly recommended. With predecessors from Japan, Switzerland and Spain, Peruvian born Watanabe is well placed to know what it means to be an immigrant. And living in Mallorca in the early 2000's, she became accustomed to the sight of refugees coming across the Mediterranean looking for a better life, while having a migrant living in her house gave her insight into his journey.
Thus the wordless picture book, Migrants was developed. With a stream of animals in various guises making for the next page, readers will follow their journey through the book, along with the figure of death, always behind them, as they battle uncertainty, privation, hope and despair.
Many are covered with an array of blankets given them along the way, some have bags they hang on to, only to be abandoned, some are accompanied by families, including children, but few are left at the end of their trials.
The lack of words underlines the fact that these people do not need words to tell us of their plight, it is obvious and our compassion should be bubbling over with support.
Readers will empathise with the plight of these migrants, wanting to leave their forest for whatever reason, coming to another place to start anew. But the journey is horrific, arduous and taxing, death is ever present, nibbling at their heals.
The illustrations are stunning, portraying a group of people as animals, finding their way in the dark, unsignposted, sheltering where they can in the trees and on the beach. The black colour is continued throughout the book, giving an ominous, portentous and foreboding overlay to the outcome of these migrants. Readers cannot help but reflect on the images they have seen on the nightly news, seeing parallels in Watanabe's images, so powerfully portrayed.
This is not an easy book to read, throwing up images of people like you and me finding themselves in situations where they must flee. We follow their journey with wet eyes.
To find out more about Issa Watanabe and how she came to write this book, read this interview with the author. Teacher's notes are available.
Fran Knight

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