Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

Mary Beth Leatherdale, illus. by Eleanor Shakespeare. Annick (PGW, dist.), $12.95 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-55451-895-1
This composite portrait of the struggles of 20th- and 21st-century boat refugees is alternately harrowing, wrenching, and hopeful. Leatherdale (coauthor of Urban Tribes and Dreaming in Indian) provides compact profiles of five adolescents who, between 1939 and 2006, left their homelands to escape violence and repressive regimes. In 1939, 18-year-old Ruth was among more than 900 German Jews aboard the SS St. Louis who were turned away from Cuba (and several other North and South American nations, including the U.S.); decades later, 13-year-old José and his family fled Cuba in what became known as the Mariel boatlift. Sidebars provide historical context, and the asylum-seekers’ first-person accounts bring immediacy and urgency to their stories (four of the former refugees are still alive, and shared their stories with the author). Displacement, desperation, isolation, and persecution are common to all five stories, and although closing passages offer somewhat heartening updates on what happened to each individual, Leatherdale never sugarcoats the human cost of these tragedies. Shakespeare’s (Cut, Paste, Create) photo collages underscore the peril and perseverance of the journeys, which serve as powerful mirrors to current humanitarian crises. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/27/2017
Release date: 04/01/2017
Hardcover - 64 pages - 978-1-55451-896-8
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