Out by Angela May George

cover image

Ill. by Owen Swan. Scholastic, 2016. ISBN 9781743629000
(Age: all) Highly recommended. Refugees, Asylum seekers, War, Freedom. The young girl in this moving book tells us her story. She and her mother must flee their country which is at war. Men come with guns and she and her mother hide beneath piles of clothing, and then are able to get on a boat to a new life. On the boat her mother catches a fish hanging a line over the side. In Australia they live with a friend they met on the boat and the girl goes to school where loud noises still upset her. They build a new life and wait for her father to join them. She now feels safe and free.
This simple elegantly told story of the many people who have come to Australia, has a deceptively simple text telling the reader all they need to know, that here is a child who is asking for help. She is not 'asylum seeker' or 'refugee' but has a name and an individual story to tell. This book asks readers to look behind the rhetoric of hate and to see the real stories of the real people who come to our shores.
The title of the book will encourage discussion amongst the readers, looking at the layer of meanings behind the word, Out. It could mean being forced to leave as well as reflecting some of the hate of a few racists who call for refugees to be kicked out.
A book to promote understanding, the illustrations by Swan will remain with the reader, paralleling the discussion about this young girl. Done in quiet, unassuming grey wash watercolour and pencil, the girl's yellow ribbon forms a sharp contrast throughout the story as it is her ribbon on the boat, a ribbon on her backpack, a ribbon used in a string game. The yellow shines out as a beacon of hope for this young girl and her mother. Published to coincide with National Refugee Week (usually the last week in June) this book has a place in all libraries and classrooms.
Fran Knight