Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Creativity and Hope

My Name Is Sangoel by Karen Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock, is a book of a refugee family from Africa. Sangoel (pronounced "sun-goal"), a young boy, is dismayed at the mispronunciations of his name, all that he has brought from his former home. I love how he brings his problems to his mother, who is feeling overwhelmed herself. (I do wish she were more helpful for him.) His own ingenuity, however, not only solves his problem, but creates a wave of friendliness and excitement in his classroom. Really, it's wonderful. The illustrations are also perfect, warm and loving with just a hint of fear and sadness.

Early in the book, we hear of war, the death of Sangoel's father and the harsh life of a refugee (both in a camp and as an immigrant). These are heavy themes which I did not address openly with First Son. We just read the book together. He was as delighted with Sangoel's creativity as I was. I always try to preview the books I read aloud with the children, but with themes such as these, previewing is a necessity.

If you are interested in talking with your children about refugees, this book would be an excellent resource for you. Ms. Williams and Ms. Mohammed seem to have a lot of experience in working with and telling the stories of refugees and children who suffer through difficult circumstances. I intend to read through some of their other books as well.

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