Boundless Sky follows the journey of a migrating swallow as it travels from the northern shores of Britain to the southern tip of Africa. The freedom in the setting, providing readers with a sense of a world without borders.
Using poetic text, Amanda Addison delicately draws the reader through the journey that the bird goes on every autumn, flying across several varying landscapes, each beautifully illustrated by Manuela Adreani, using fine pencil work and digital rendering.
With themes of hope, perseverance and belonging, Boundless Sky only introduces two of the children depicted by name, Alfie and Leila. The two characters are worlds apart in their setting; however, both bring the bird nourishment, treating it with kindness.
As we travel with the swallow and its flight over seas, mountains, deserts, oases, jungle and grassy plains, the reader is actively encouraged to refer back to the title page, which depicts the bird’s migration path, working out where it might be, wondering how much of its long and arduous journey remains.
After the swallow finally reaches its destination, Adreani’s artwork actively draws the reader’s eye from right to left, changing the direction of our gaze, as the bird begins to consider making its return journey at the end of the African summer.
It is on the return to the oasis, where we are first presented with something amiss. Leila is not there. Doors are barred, chairs overturned, papers flutter off the page in the warm breeze. It is as if the inhabitants have had to leave in a hurry. On the turn of the page, a packed boat of people can be seen skirting across a stormy ocean. Leila’s hijab can just about be picked out. Bringing uncertainty, Leila’s journey can be discussed with older readers here; her seemingly insurmountable challenge being reflected by those faced by the bird. Arguably, as adult readers, we know that Leila will encounter many more problems; these can be explored, alongside children, through several cross-curricular areas.
Bringing the story to a hopeful resolution (which seems a shame to spoil here), Addison and Adreani’s text is highly empathetic, with a richness and depth to both word and image. Mirrored endpapers add to this feeling of a journey, inviting the reader to return for a re-read.
Evoking similar refugee-themed texts, such as Francesca Sanna’s ‘The Journey’, Armin Greder’s ‘The Mediterranean’ and Wendy Meddour’s ‘Lubna and Pebble’, Boundless Sky ultimately leaves the reader with hope. Hope that people fleeing their country, due to war, persecution or natural disaster, will be welcomed.
Due to its sensitive and subtle handling of the refugee experience, I would recommend Boundless Sky be followed by further study, ensuring children get a full and realistic understanding of issues surrounding them in the wider world. Depending on the year group, this could be through supplementary texts and resources, such as Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young’s ‘Who are Refugees and Migrants? What Makes People Leave their Homes? And Other Big Questions’, CBBC’s Newsround website, and the UNHCR website (https://www.unhcr.org/afr/).
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