The Voyage

Authored by Robert Vescio
Illustrated by Andrea Edmonds
Published by EK Books

It should not be necessary to have to teach young people about forced migration. However, around the world today, there are many ecological, geopolitical and economic reasons that force children and their families to flee their homes. Another stark reality is that often, after arduous journeys, many newly arrived people face racism, abuse and hate rather than welcome and sanctuary. A book like The Voyage can help to open children’s minds to these facts.

The title page shows a brightly decorated lantern that features an image of a cosy house with a person or people visible behind one of the top windows. We think about the symbolism of a lantern. Travellers can carry them to light the way. Inside the glass panels, a light is safe from the winds that might blow it out.

The dedication page depicts a little girl accompanying her father on a hand drum, as he plays a bouzouki-like instrument. He loves playing and she clearly loves the music he makes. Combined with the endpapers we are lulled into thinking that this is a book about an ordinary domestic situation.

The first opening shatters that feeling as we see the same little girl, along with her parents, baby sibling and neighbours fleeing their town as bombs rain down. She is carrying her drum and clutching a goose tightly to her chest – the same goose who we saw earlier strutting confidently across the endpapers. We are relieved that she and her father have managed to save his bouzouki and her drum. However, as we see them embark on their fragile boat, we notice both instruments left behind on the beach.

The text is simple – one word per page. This emphasises the extreme conditions of the plight of the little family. Out on the sea, the little boat seems so inadequate against the elements. The illustrations are beautiful and carry the story.  I won’t reveal the ending, but, in the hands of a good teacher, it will reassure children – while also making them think about their civic and social responsibilities. Teachers of early years and older will find this a useful resource for broaching a difficult topic.

It is worth noting that the logo for EK books – who are new to me – is an image of a single red sneaker and the message ‘Books with Heart on Issues that Matter’.