Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

Mary Beth Leatherdale, Author

Eleanor Shakespeare, Illustrator

Annick Press, Nonfiction, Apr. 11, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 10-12

Pages: 64

Themes: Boat refugees, Children refugees, Seeking asylum, Persecution, War, Natural Disasters, Courage

Publisher Synopsis:

The plight of refugees risking their lives at sea has, unfortunately, made the headlines all too often in the past few years. This book presents five true stories, from 1939 to today, about young people who lived through the harrowing experience of setting sail in search of asylum: Ruth (18) and her family board the St. Louis to escape Nazism; Phu (14) sets out alone from war-torn Vietnam; José (13) tries to reach the United States from Cuba; Najeeba (11) flees Afghanistan and the Taliban; and after losing his family, Mohamed (13) abandons his village on the Ivory Coast in search of a new life. But life is not easy once they arrive. It’s hard to fit in when you don’t speak the language. These child refugees face prejudice. Yet the five make it and lead successful lives.

Stormy Seas combines a vivid and contemporary collage-based design with dramatic storytelling to produce a book that makes for riveting reading as well as a source of timely information. These remarkable accounts will give readers a keen appreciation of the devastating effects of war and poverty on youth like themselves, and helps put the mounting current refugee crisis into stark context.

What I like about this book:

This is a timely and powerful story about resilience and determination. The book doesn’t pull any punches. It is the true stories of five refugee children who face real danger as they escape by sea. One sails aboard an ocean liner and the other four drift in open, unseaworthy boats that are overloaded. There are no lifejackets or bailing cans. Food and water is scarce. They face stormy weather and pirate attacks at sea. The boat refugees leave with hope in their hearts of seeking asylum and freedom from persecution, civil war, drought and natural disasters. They arrive at their destinations ill and needing medical treatment. Some end up in detention or refugee camps.

Reading stories about immigrants that span 80 years, offers readers a greater insight into the current refugee crisis in the Middle East, South America and Africa. It is interesting to compare the past with current events. The stories of the past echo similar themes refugees face today — they are not welcome by many countries. They are ostracized and treated like prisoners. This is an excellent and current book for middle grade students and belongs in school libraries.

Stormy Seas features a beautiful collage design with historical fact sidebars, maps of each child’s journey, timelines, quotes from leaders, and refugee data that includes costs and how many boat people die at sea. This book format is perfect for reading true stories and for research projects. Readers will gain new insights into a social justice issues that date back 600 years. Make sure you read Introduction and the Brief History of the boat people which dates back to 1670 with the Huguenots leaving France for England seeking refuge from religious persecution.

Greg Pattridge hosts the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

18 thoughts on “Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

  1. Wish this weren’t such a timely topic. Sigh. Must be very interesting to read how situations have changed and stayed the same. Will add this one to my list. Thanks for reviewing this book.


    • It really is an outstanding resource book for students learning about immigration. The stories of the young people are powerfully told, but the other information that is included gives students a bigger picture and opens the doors for many questions. After each child’s story, there is a fact box about the history of immigration from their country: the number of boats, people, days, lives lost and so on.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I remember your reviewing this book. My librarian handed it to me and I really saw it’s significance for young people in understanding the history of immigration and comparing it to the present. Excellent resource for middle grade and high school students.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, Patricia ~ This sounds like a powerful book on this important issue which our world is continuing to deal with currently. The artwork looks/sounds fantastic, too. Thank you for sharing this title for MMGM today. I will definitely be looking for this one at our library.


    • It is a timely read and an important resource book for teens. The true stories of the five teens, which cover 80 years, really open your eyes. They each share the similar issues when they finally arrive in a country where they begin new lives. And their lives are successful. There is a timeline of 600 years at the beginning of the book that makes you think.


  3. This reminds me of Gratz’s REFUGEE, although his book was a fictional account of three different families. I’ll be checking this one out as the powerful stories need to be shared. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


  4. You do tend to find the most timely and meaningful books to review. Here in Spain refugees arrive by boat almost daily and I feel for the children especially. How desperate these families must be to board an unsafe, overcrowded boat to escape their country and arrived at foreign shores, not knowing if they will make it or not. I like that this book covers 80 years, so readers can see that this is not a new situation.


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