People and the Sky
A picture book that makes great sense – "Akim court". It tells the story of Akim, an ordinary boy living in a village, somewhere in the east. One day, the village is invaded by soldiers and Akim starts running to save his life. At some point, he reaches another village where he is separated from his family and then, an unknown woman takes care of him. But soldiers will invade this village, too, and this time Akim cannot escape - he will be taken prisoner. He will find a way to flee, though, and start running again. He will join some other refugees In the mountains and together they will manage to cross the border river and reach a refugee camp on the other side. There, Akim will have a big surprise.
Like the storyboard of a film, the pictures give a complete story similar to the life of tens of thousands of children refugees – according to the latest survey about Greece, more than 2000 children refugees, who are in the country without their parents, are not accommodated in any juvenile detention or welfare facilities and this number is increasing every month. With thick pencil strokes and watercolours in earthly hues, Dubois illustrates war, fear, violence, loneliness, pain and death. There is not much text, only few sentences – long captions that link the pictures and give deeper aspects to the story. This minimal, yet meaningful combination gives children the whole big picture of immigration, the current war situation in other lands, and how all this affects the children living there – the very reason Claude K. Dubois wrote it. Quite successfully, I would say, as the book provokes strong feelings and thoughts, and questions not easily answered. To give you an example, what would you answer to this: when Akim finally reunites with his mother, he asks her "What does sky mean?"
The French author and illustrator dedicated this book to her mother, a lone child during WWII. You know, refugees do not only come from far-away, exotic places in Asia or Africa. Anyone can be a refugee, anytime, when war takes away your home, your family, your right to live peacefully and thrive. And this is what makes this book necessary for kids to read despite it being sad: it gives them a non-convenient knowledge about politics and social engagement; it teaches them a stance on solidarity, respect and humanism; it defines what the terms of empathy and responsibility mean in practice so they can use them and protect other people and their potential to live and prosper when things get tough. It worked fine with Julien Makalou and Yusra Mardini. It will work for anyone.
Come to think of it, this is a book for both young and adult readers – the former to watch, discuss and learn; the latter to be reminded of active Human Rights.
Note: The book is translated in Spanish, Italian, German and Greek. It has been awarded the Children's Book Award in the former three respective countries. You can watch here a stunning theatrical presentation of it by the German theatre company compagnie toit végétal.