The Journey – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: The Journey

Author and Illustrator: Francesca Sanna

Publisher: Flying Eye Books, 2016

Ages: 6-12

Themes:  immigration, journeys, fear of unknown, new homes, hope, refugees


I lived with my family in a city close to the sea. Every summer we used to spend many weekends at the beach. But we never go anymore, because last year, our lives changed forever…


With haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war.

Why I like this book:

 This book will haunt you, and I wish it weren’t so, but if anything it is even more relevant now than when it was written two years ago due to the ongoing desperate refugee situation in our world and the current political conditions in the USA.

I challenge you to read this without tearing up at the constant grief and the terror for this unknown mother and her children. This story is a story for adults and children alike – a combination of several refugee stories that will change the way you look at things and how much we can take for granted in the west. The at times fantasy touches are, I think, a superb choice as Sanna doesn’t shy away from the horrors this family faces and yet her art style and poetic text hit the right tone for sharing this material with a young audience. 

Sanna’s art is breathtaking and full of emotional imagery and a great use of dark and shape to represent the flux and fear of this journey. War is portrayed as a dark character. The guards at the border are portrayed as big giants. I am so happy to encounter this author/illustrator’s very unusual work, and hope to interview her, as I like her European sensibility. I would definitely add this to the classroom shelf on refugees.

© Francesca Sanna – see


From the author: The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries. A few months later, in September 2014, when I started studying a Master of Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, I knew I wanted to create a book about these true stories. Almost every day on the news we hear the terms “migrants” and “refugees” but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take. This book is a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.

This is a great springboard for class discussions on all sorts of journeys including, moving and immigration.

Amnesty International has put together a great teaching document about using this book to look at human rights with children. 

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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3 Responses to The Journey – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    Yes! This is a beautiful book in many ways. And quite the amazing and interesting backstory to its creation. I think that the best books cut close to the author’s heart, don’t you? It’s clear that this is one of those books.

  2. Joanna says:

    Yes, oh, yes. And those heart books are often not the first books we write.

  3. Patricia Nozell says:

    So glad you reviewed The Journey. It was one of the first refugee/migrant books that I read, & it’s stayed with me. I hope you interview Sanna – she has really put her heart into this book & Me & My Fear, a sequel of sorts that features the same unnamed narrator trying to assimilate into a new culture, country.

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