Exile, Friendship, Apple Cake, and Baklava
The subject of migration, refugees and exile is all around us. In numerous countries across the globe, children are either having to adapt to new schools in cultures and languages that are not their own, or they see the arrival of new children in their classrooms who have had to flee their country of origin. Literature for children (and adults!) of all ages is vital in order to provide an understanding of what it means to leave one's home and start afresh in a new one. Ahead of World Refugee Day, a book for middle schoolers, Apple Cake and Baklava, by Kathrin Rohmann, translated from the German by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, is just out. It's a lovely story about Max, a boy in a village in Germany, and Leila, a recently arrived refugee from Syria. She has fled her country with her mother and two brothers, leaving behind her father, a baker, and his mother; Leila's beloved grandmother behind. The book alternates chapters between Max's story and Leila's, allowing young readers to follow what's going in the minds of both children. Rohmann deftly sets up the tenets for a budding friendship by giving Max and Leila particularly close relationships with their grandmothers. Their friendship is cemented when Leila looses a treasured walnut she has brought with her from a tree in her grandmother's garden, and Max offers to help her find it. Loss, friendship, and the acceptance that a new life is possible, are at the heart of the book, peppered with stories of baking—always a reassuring subject—whether it's apple cake, gingerbread or baklava, and even a few recipes at the end of the book.
While the violence in Syria remains in the headlines, the displacement of so many families is an important subject to talk about whether in Germany or elsewhere and it's never too young to learn empathy.
For a few more recommendations for great books for children on the subject please see below:
Banner photo by Jasmin Waheed/Unsplash