the harrowing journey of a refugee


The Journey, written and illustrated by Francesca Sanna
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

I’ll just tell you right from the start — this stunning book is one of my all-time favorites of 2016. 

The plight of the refugee.


How hardhearted would a person have to be to not feel the anguish, the immense loss, the tearing away from home, perhaps forever; the distress, misery, vulnerability, and abject terror that heaves itself upon ordinary people — 

Turkey syrian refugees kurds

young moms leading small, forlorn children;

elderly men and women straggling away from villages which sheltered them all their lives; traumatized ones still in mourning; desperate, anxious, young men, fleeing the threat of conscription into armies requiring unspeakable violence.


Not a world any of them imagined being a part of.

And yet…the images and stories engulfing our world in the past several years are so relentless and overwhelming. Their sheer volume threatens to numb us against this grief.

Francesca Sanna’s phenomenal book, however, brilliantly, incisively sets us in the midst of just one family plunged into war, to experience along with them their chaotic nightmare.


A loving family. The encroaching darkness of war spills into their lives like black ink flooding across a cherished picture, overtaking them.


A father gone. A heartsick mother gathers her children to flee. Covert, exhausting, staggering — the phases of their journey unfold like ominous scenes from a Hitchcock film.


Sanna’s gorgeous images — her minute figures set against an enormity of obstacles — set our nerves on edge. By contrast, the palpable love and togetherness of this mother and her children tenderize and warm our hearts. I was staggered by her work, the way she captures the tumult and emotion of the refugee experience.


This image of the mother weeping after her children are safely asleep is superb, isn’t it?

This journey ends in hope. Anything else would be unbearable for the young children whose hearts will be moved, certainly, by this story. 


As we head into a time of gathering together for various holidays, it seems the perfect time of year to share this gorgeous book in our households and consider together what small role we might play in the relief of suffering for the displaced.

Highly recommended for ages 3 to 100.