In Search of Safety – Book Recommendation

Title: In Search of Safety, Voices of Refugees

Author and Photographer: Susan Kuklin

 Publisher: Candlewick Press, May 2020

Ages: 13+

Themes: war, refugees, re-settlement, USA, slavery, violence, Nebraska


Fraidoon: “From 1984, when I was born, until July 16, 2017, when I arrived in the United States, I never lived in a place where there was no war.”


Five refugees recount their courageous journeys to America — and the unimaginable struggles that led them to flee their homelands.

An Iraqi woman who survived capture by ISIS. A Sudanese teen growing up in civil war and famine. An Afghan interpreter for the U.S. Army living under threat of a fatwa. They are among the five refugees who share their stories. The five, originally from Afghanistan, Myanmar, South Sudan, Iraq, and Burundi, give gripping first-person testimonies about what it is like to flee war, face violent threats, grow up in a refugee camp, be sold into slavery, and resettle in America.

Why I like this book:

A moving powerfully crafted book to help young people and adults better understand the devastating impact of war and persecution, pertinent to our modern day tensions and need to welcome and support refugees.

Each individual or family faces similar fears and hopes on starting their new life in the US. These emotions are palpable through the interviews and reading these stories had me cheering for every little success these survivors sustain as well as feeling for their ongoing pain through loss and adjustments. Inevitably their experiences are wildly different and we are permitted a glimpse into what sort of support needs to be in place and how often it is lacking. Often it is unpaid local volunteers who pick up much of the care.

As an anglophone immigrant with a handful of friends already when I arrived, the awareness of my good fortune and privilege was heightened reading these stories. The brutality of what these people have endured and their tenacity in making a new life froim nothing in a vastly different culture highlights our need for increased compassion and resources to meet these peoples’ needs.

Kuklin chose well to limit her focus to the lives of very different refugees having fled five very different countries but all of whom ended up in one place, Nebraska. Their pasts are unimaginable; their courage amazing. Each story is an inspiration and a call for us to be more involved in the world wide refugee crisis. This is a strong addition to the books I have added to our school library for our teachers’ units on refugees. I was a fan of the author after reading Beyond Magenta (also purchased for our library) and am an even greater one now.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.


Included in the end matter are chapter notes, information on resettlement and U.S. citizenship, historical time lines of war and political strife in the refugees’ countries of origin, resources for further reading, and an index.

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Home in the Woods – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Home in the Woods

Author & Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler

Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books, 2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: poverty, Great Depression, family, home, fortitude



This picture book from Eliza Wheeler is based on her grandmother’s childhood and pays homage to a family’s fortitude as they discover the meaning of home.

Eliza Wheeler’s book tells the story of what happens when six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their mom must start all over again after their father has died. Deep in the woods of Wisconsin they find a tar-paper shack. It doesn’t seem like much of a home, but they soon start seeing what it could be. During their first year it’s a struggle to maintain the shack and make sure they have enough to eat. But each season also brings its own delights and blessings–and the children always find a way to have fun. Most importantly, the family finds immense joy in being together, surrounded by nature. And slowly, their little shack starts feeling like a true home–warm, bright, and filled up with love.

Why I like this book:

A Depression era story based on the true lives of the author’s Grandma, her mother and siblings, that is overflowing with true hardship and heart. It is completely enchanting with a message of optimism that filles every double paged spread from berry canning, to wood chopping, woodland animals and making a home from whatever you find. The language is sublime and the illustrations poignant with perfect tonal choice for the seasons and moods.

‘’Snow falls in a blanket of diamonds all around the shack. The jack pines sway above as we fall asleep close together. But Mum stays awake into the night, whispering to the stars…’’

The main character, a young child (and the author’s grandma), grows through the pages – feeling empty and down at the beginning after the loss of her father and move to such simple living conditions in the wood shack, to a place of wonder and fulfillment at the end. The way this entire family fights for their livelihood and sees the best in their situation is inspirational. This is a must read for all!


This pairs perfectly with a book I reviewed two weeks ago, RUBY’S HOPE

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website

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Rainbow A First Book of Pride – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Rainbow, A First Book of Pride

Author: Michael Genhart

Illustrator: Anne Passchier

 Publisher: Magination Press, 2019

Ages: pre-school

Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: rainbow, color meanings, pride, lgbtqia+ community


“Every color means something.


This is a sweet ode to rainbow families, and an affirming display of a parent’s love for their child and a child’s love for their parents. With bright colors and joyful families, this book celebrates LGBTQ+ pride and reveals the colorful meaning behind each rainbow stripe. Readers will celebrate the life, healing, light, nature, harmony, and spirit that the rainbows in this book will bring.

Why I like this book:

This book does exactly what the title promises. It’s a book for the very young celebrating the rainbow as a Pride symbol! The simple, minimalist text (three words per double spread) illuminates meanings for each color e.g. blue is harmony. The illustrations are bold and beautiful, displaying a race- and gender-diverse cast of children and families celebrating life. I am okay with Genhart’s choice to stick to the the traditional Pride flag, instead of the updated Philadelphia version that incorporates black and brown strips (that represent people of color in the queer community) as I believe he wanted it super simple for the very young.

The author says at the back of the book, “Rainbow flags are happy too. They celebrate love, hope, diversity, and acceptance.” There is a picture with all the families holding rainbow flags, and a little girl holding a sign that says LOVE in rainbow colors, and two men kissing and their mouths make one smile. SWEET! This book is an uplifting and colorful celebration surely to make you smile!

This would make a perfect book to explain the PRIDE rainbow and introduce pre-schoolers to LGBTQIA families.


Make rainbow flags!

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Posted in children's books, Children's literature, nonfiction, Perfect Picture Book Friday | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments