Give Me Shelter

The phrase “asylum seeker” is one heard in the media all the time. It stimulates fierce and controversial debate, in arguments about migration, race, and religion. The movement of people from poor or struggling countries to those where there may be opportunities for a better life is a constant in human history, but it is something with particular relevance in this time of wide-scale political and social upheaval. Featuring stories from youth based in trouble spots around the world — including Kosovo, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Eritrea, Zaire, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Kurdistan — this collection of stories spotlights people who have been forced to leave their homes or families to seek help and shelter elsewhere. This book has no political axe to grind, simply recording the truth of these children’s stories without assigning blame. Some are about young people traveling to other countries; others are concerned with young ones left behind when parents are forced to flee. These are stories about physical and emotional suffering but also about humanity — of both those who endure unimaginable hardship and those who help them.

A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk

In the little village of Duk Padiet in southern Sudan, a boy named Jacob Deng thrives on the love of his mother, the companionship of his sisters, the excitement of learning how to look after his uncle’s herds of cattle. The year is 1987, and suddenly in the night soldiers from the north invade the village, looting, burning, and killing. The war has arrived, and the life of Jacob will never be the same. This novel is based on the real life experiences of a Sudanese boy who, with thousands of other boys from the region, fled for his life and spent seven years walking through deserts, grasslands and forests, crossing crocodile-infested rivers, surviving life in massive refugee camps. The so-called Lost Boys of Sudan – as they were called by an American aid organization – numbered as many as 27,000, and while many died – from starvation, attacks by wild animals, drowning, or through the brutality of the military – many survived. Jacob never returned to his village, but though he was only seven years old when he had to flee, he somehow managed to live through an almost unimaginable ordeal. Throughout the seven years covered in this story, Jacob resists the temptation to join the liberation army. Steadily Jacob finds himself more and more adhering to his mother’s advice that getting an education is crucial to escaping the cycle of violence that afflicts his country. Jacob’s struggle, then, is to persist in seeking out teachers and eventually a school where his ambition to learn about the world can be met. Through it all he learns about loyalty and love for close friends who have been thrust together with him on this extraordinary journey, and also about the guiding light provided by the memory of his mother.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 4, Issue 2

Escape Under the Forever Sky

Loosely based on real-life events this suspenseful story is also funny and touching. Lucy’s mother is the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia so Lucy’s life must be one big adventure right? Wrong. Lucy’s worrywart mother keeps her locked up inside the ambassador’s residence. All Lucy can do is read about the exciting world that lies beyond the compound walls and imagine what it would be like to be a part of it. That is until one day Lucy decides she has had enough and she and a friend sneak off for some fun. But to their horror Lucy gets kidnapped! With only herself to rely upon, Lucy must use her knowledge of African animals, inventiveness, will, and courage to escape and in the process embarks on an adventure beyond her wildest imagination.

Popol Vuh: A Sacred Book of the Maya

One of the few Maya documents to survive the Spanish conquest, the Popol Vuh describes the creation of the Maya universe and of humans. It tells the tale of the Hero Twins, who defeated the gods of the underworld in a ball game, and details the legendary history of the Quiche Maya rulers until their imprisonment and torture by the Spanish. Equivalent to the Bible and the Greek and Roman mythologies, the Popol Vuh is the essential text of Mayan culture.

A Handful of Seeds

One sad day, Grandmother died. “You cannot stay here,” said the man who owned the land. “I have a family ready to move in.” Young Concepcion has no choice but to move to the [barrio] of the nearby city. There she meets children who, in order to survive, must steal the good they eat. But Concepcion has a plan. With back-breaking work she plants a garden amid the rubble, using her grandmother’s legacy: a handful of chili, corn and bean seeds. But her garden is destroyed. Will she have the strength to begin again? Published in collaboration with UNICEF Canada, A Handful of Seeds offers a message of hope on behalf of the thirty million children worldwide who live on the streets of their cities.

Asphalt Angels

A raw, poignant story of a band of Brazilian street kids who survive — if they can — by their wits alone. Asphalt Angels centers around a boy named Alex, a street child of 13 in Brazil who has been kicked onto the city streets by his stepfather after his mother dies. He is alone and scared. This is the story of how he adapts to life in the streets with a group of other children. Hazards are everywhere: drug-dealing, theft, glue-sniffing, harassment, brutality, even murder. It is not easy steering clear of them, yet Alex manages to survive, eventually making a home with 14 other boys in a house, working in an office, and attending evening school. This story grew from the real-life drama the author observed while on assignment. In an afterword, she reports that some 10,000 children sleep in Rio’s streets, and many more roam them by day, victims of inadequate nutrition, education, and shelter, and prey to drugs and violence. Alex does exist, but under another name.

Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale

Melkorka is a princess, the first daughter of a magnificent kingdom in medieval Ireland, but all of this is lost the day she is kidnapped and taken aboard a marauding slave ship. Thrown into a world that she has never known, alongside people that her former country’s laws regarded as less than human, Melkorka is forced to learn quickly how to survive. Taking a vow of silence, however, she finds herself an object of fascination to her captors and masters, and soon realizes that any power, no matter how little, can make a difference. Based on an ancient Icelandic saga, award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli has crafted a heartbreaking story of a young girl who must learn to forget all that she knows and carve out a place for herself in a new world — all without speaking a word.

Different Kind Of Courage

In 1940, the Germans have come to Paris and Bertrand, his mother and sister are fleeing. Meanwhile, the Germans have not come to the south of France, where Zina and her family live–but there’s no work for ethnic Russians like Zina’s papa. Both Bertrand and Zina must go to America in order to survive. Each shows fear in a different way, but finally, through friendship, finds hope again.