MTYT: Marwan’s Journey

By Dr. Kathleen Crawford-McKinney, Wayne State University and Deanna Day-Wiff, Washington State University.

In the third installment of November’s MTYT, Dr. Kathleen Crawford-McKinney and Deanna Day-Wiff talk about the picturebook Marwan’s Journey, written by Patricia de Arias and illustrated by Laura Borràs. November’s theme is Global Perspectives on the Refugee and Immigrant Experience. This book tells the story of a boy who was forced to leave his country and seek a life of freedom and safety.

Marwan's Journey

Kathleen: Marwan’s Journey shows us the story of boy who had a normal happy life, and was forced into leaving his country because

One night they came… The darkness grew colder, deeper, darker, and swallowed up everything: my house, my garden, my homeland.

This powerful two-page spread illustrates the danger and fear that these refugees faced that forced them to leave their country from what seems to be somewhere in the Middle East. Patricia de Arias has the reader walk with Marwan on his journey where he remembers “the ancient stories, the songs of my homeland, and the smell of tea and bread, jasmine and earth.” These two pages are upfront in the book, but it wasn’t until I read it through for the second or third time that I empathized how difficult it must be for Marwan to take this journey. He brings his memories of his homeland with him as he is forced to start anew with a group of people who try to make it to a safe place. It makes me think of what is occurring as people from Central America are walking toward the United States to escape their country, and what they are facing as they walk hundreds of miles to find a better place. The illustrator uses very muted, earthy tones to tell this story. At first, I wasn’t drawn into the story because of her illustration style, but after reading it through a couple of times, these colors are the colors of a desert, where they walk and keep walking. This picturebook through both illustration and text captures the faces of the people and makes a powerful statement of happier times. Deanna, what did you think about theme of the footsteps through both text and illustrations?

Deanna: On the cover of Marwan’s Journey a pair of laced up shoes sits amongst the luggage and knapsacks. Marwan sits on top of one suitcase dreaming of a peaceful future. Journeys involve traveling, walking, crossing, floating and moving. The first page begins with,

I take giant steps / even though I am small. / One, / two, / three… / crossing / the desert.

In the illustrations, readers see footsteps left in the sand as the refugees travel across the small hills.

On the double page spread that you discuss Kathleen, I immediately noticed everyone’s feet. Their shoes and socks are off and the travelers are resting and taking care of themselves as they drink tea and eat.

The third page, done in shades of ochre and brown watercolor paint, depicts an ongoing journey that appears like it will never end. A black ink spiral is smeared with water and paint splatters showcasing how difficult the walk through the desert is and the many unknowns: “…I don’t know / when I will get there” and “…or where I am going.”

Later on in the book one dramatic page displays long legs and bare feet drawn in a contour style with pencil, crayon, ink or charcoal. The words state: “One… / two… / three… / A line of humans link ants / crossing the desert.” This image and words are powerful and descriptive describing how difficult leaving your home and walking to an unknown home can be.

The beautiful picturebook closes with Marwin longing to return to his homeland where he will plant a garden of hope and build a house of happiness.

Title: Marwan’s Journey
Author: Patricia de Arias
Illustrator: Laura Borràs
ISBN: 9789888341559
Publisher: Minedition
Publisher Date: May 1, 2018

This is the third installment of November’s issue of My Take/Your Take. You can find the the first and second issues on our site. Check back next month to see what books we’ve selected and to follow the conversation!

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