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Author/illustrator: Francesca Sanna
Format: Picture Book
Age range: Preschool – elementary school
Length: 48 pages
Publisher: Flying Eye Books

These are trying times for parents. I don’t know how it is where you live, but over here at Lu and Bean’s house we are not experts in how to talk to our children about difficult subjects. When the girls were younger, we tried to explain things generically. But “well, there are some bad guys and they did a bad thing” doesn’t go as far when they come home from school asking real questions about the recent presidential campaign or the frequent Code Red drills they practice “just in case there is a robber outside the school.” The subject of immigration has become a dividing issue in our country, and our girls are curious about what they hear on TV, from friends and, to be honest, what they overhear their parents talking about. They ask questions. We answer the best we can, but we often struggle to find the right balance between sharing the facts, bestowing our values, and knowing what 4- and 6-year-olds can handle. The Journey, by Francesca Sanna, is one of the best books I have read to give us the tools to continue this important discussion with our children.


The Journey is told from a child’s perspective. The child has lived a happy life, spending summers visiting the shore. But when war comes, life changes forever.

“The war began. Every day bad things started happening around us and soon there was nothing but chaos. Then one day the war took my father.”

Fearing more violence, the child’s mother plans a journey. This journey is a forever journey. It takes the family far from what they know and love. Soon, the journey even begins consuming the small number of items the family brings with them.

“The further we go…the more we leave behind.”

As the journey continues, the family meets danger in the form of rough terrain and a wild sea. Soon the journey’s dangers morph into border guards and a wall trying to keep them out. The book ends before the journey does, on neither a happy note nor a sad one. It does, however, end hopefully.

“I hope one day, like these birds, we will find a new home. A home where we can be safe and begin our story again.”


This summary and review must quote the book because Francesca Sanna has found such simple and raw ways to explain a sliver of what refugees experience. She doesn’t provide enough detail to scare her young readers, but she doesn’t hold back from sharing real sadness and fear either. The family’s journey is frightening, and the children rely on their mother to reassure them that everything will be OK. One of the most heartbreaking spreads shows the children falling asleep in their mother’s arms on the forest floor after a failed attempt at crossing the border.

“In the darkness the noises of the forest scare me. But mother is with us and she is never scared.”

The opposite illustration shows the children fast asleep, while the mother cries alone. If this seems like heavy stuff for children, you’re right. The world is not easy. It helps me to keep in mind that thousands of children face these real situations every day, while most American children need only to be educated about it. Lu and Bean, like many American kids, have everything they need. Food, a safe home, warm clothes in the winter, many caring adults in their lives. I think it’s our duty to explain to these beautiful, privileged children that millions of other beautiful people in the world don’t have what they need. That they are forced to leave their home and those who love them in search of a better life.

So, on this Thanksgiving week, I am thankful for what we have. I am committed to ensuring everyone who lives in my community has those same resources, and feels accepted and included no matter what circumstances brought them here. And I’m grateful for the Journey for giving me words and pictures to help my children understand  just how brave and strong our immigrant brothers and sisters are.

Where to get it

At your library!
At an independent bookseller

The Journey Picture Book

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