The island by Armin Greder

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Highly recommended, this dark and mesmerising picture book for older children and adults is an essential addition to library collections. When an outsider is washed up on the beach, the local people are faced with the question of what to do with him. Fearful, but not wanting his death on their consciences, they isolate him on the end of the island, lock him in a goat pen and leave him. When he finally escapes and approaches them for food, they realise that 'their act of kindness had not been the end, but merely a beginning'. Growing fear and intolerance take over and he is finally condemned and the island barricaded against all newcomers.

Armin Greder's sparse prose and compelling illustrations present an overwhelming and chilling picture of the plight of refugees and the way that fear and racial prejudice can overwhelm even the voice of reason. The chilling illustrations are all done in dark tones with just a hint of teal and red, and bring to life the emotions of the refugee and the islanders. The anger and fear of the large and overwhelming islanders is almost tangible and the starving figure of the outsider is breathtaking.

A recipient of several European awards, this book could be used in the classroom in a variety of ways when introducing work on refugees, intolerance, racial prejudice and sharing. Teacher’s notes are available and outlines different strategies for teachers. Younger children would need to have discussion and follow up to show that with tolerance the bleak ending in the book need not happen today.

This is an unforgettable and very important book for our times.

Pat Pledger