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Like a turtle, Salih carries his home on his back. He must cross a raging sea in search of a safe home.
Salih paints his happiest memories and sends them as messages in bottles.
Will someone find them and understand? Will Salih find a new home?
Erin Lyon – 2 July 2021
This beautifully crafted tale follows the life of Salih, a boy whose life has been uprooted by war and loss. Carrying his home on his back, the young child crosses roads, fields and ‘arid land’, heading seaward and fuelled by the memories of simpler and happier times. Drawing upon the book’s intended audience, the young protagonist reflects on shared memories of childhood, where Salih enjoys warm milk before bedtime or an ice cream in the park. But these moments are only memories now, the stains of war forcibly removing Salih from his home. In a refugee camp, Salih meets an old man who teaches him to make art of the papers that fly past their tents. With paint brushes in hand, a community forms around Salih, friends and family joining to paint the things that were dear to them. From bakeries to rose gardens, Salih bottles these dreams to bring with him on the last part of their journey, but the angry sea steals them away. Landing on new shore the paintings are lost, but their dreams and hope remain.
Inda Ahmad Zahri pulls at the empathy of her readers, gently drawing light to the hardship experienced by refugees and the trauma of displacement. In the author’s words, this book was written as a message of hope for refugees embarking on dangerous journeys to find peace and safety. It also highlights the need to raise awareness for global empathy and diversity. Ahmad Zahri’s debut picture book provides a delicate and age-appropriate platform for discussion on these issues, both in homes and in the classroom.
Illustrated through a multilayered technique of painting and drawing, Salih is gorgeously imaged by Anne Ryan. Complementing the writing of Ahmad Zahri, Ryan’s tender drawings are both poignant and imaginative, drawing upon the emotions of the characters’ positions and the optimism of the story’s direction. A touching, recommendable read.
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