Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arias, Laura Borràs, Illus.
minedition, 2018. Hardcover Picture Book, 36 pages. Ages 6-10.
“Marwan is a young boy on a journey he never intended to take, bound for a place he doesn’t know. On his journey, he relies on courage and memories of his faraway homeland to buoy him. With him are hundreds and thousands of other human beings, crossing the deserts and the seas, fleeing war and hunger in search of safety.” Jacket copy.
One of the most painful realizations is identifying how much a children’s book Marwan’s Journey is. That storytelling tradition in the repetition of lines, “one, two, three…” of words: walking and walking… This is the story of a child, for another child to hear…and participate. Isn’t that what we do with the counting, with the repetitions, we invite the listener to participate and anticipate. And also, to remember.
Borràs’ illustrations are a perfect counterpart to de Arias’ text; both are exquisite on the page. Both guide us from warm, life-giving scenes toward darker images, back toward words of hope, of a return where a home is propped up by trees. A spread full of family enjoying one another, only to be followed by a tiny silhouette carrying a pack against a barren landscape, to be followed by a line of packs with so few belongings, what memories that can be carried.
The tough moments happen in the dark: the grief, the fear, the bad guys in tanks. But in the dark can also come dreams, the remembrances that offer images of daylight.
“I walk, and my footsteps leave a trace of ancient stories, the songs of my homeland, and the smell of tea and bread, jasmine and earth.”
Along Marwan’s Journey, we see an underlying hope of how culture and tradition has made these journeys before you and with you; perhaps they may someday return to their birthplace.
“One day, I will return.
I will not hesitate.
I will plant a garden with my hands,
Full of flowers and hope.”
“Every night I will pray that the night never, never, never goes so dark again.”
Beautiful. Gentle in the way a child might absorb it, so there’s no forgetting it. We’ve all had to learn how to walk, one foot in front of the other, one, two, three… Marwan’s Journey finds a marvelous number of ways to connect with the reader, a powerful means of drawing out our deepest empathic responses. Here, de Arias and Borràs introduce us to a child and removes the demand or challenge to respond. Instead, they rest in our hands a story from which we can’t possible look away.
Recommend for all ages. It has the visual, textual, and compositional appeal for the widest possible audience. Set this on the shelf with Sanna’s The Journey and Trottier’s Migrant.