From Far Away by Robert Munsch, Saoussan Askar & Rebecca Green (illustrator)

An older version of this title was first published in 1995.  This version acknowledges Saoussan Askar's contributions to the story and is presented with a different illustrator. The book is as profound now as it was then. Given the political climate, it might be even more important. 

Immigration is part of our story here in North America. Green's illustrations show us a Muslim family who were forced to leave their country because of war. Readers will empathise with Saoussan, as she struggles to make her way in this new land. Her world is fraught with difficulty as she learns a new language and navigates her way through new cultural traditions. Just needing to use the toilet can be a nearly overwhelming obstacle. The Halloween episode is especially poignant. From my teaching experience, it is one of the strangest for children to get used to, and eventually the one that students 'from far away' embrace readily. It also reminds us that many of the children who come from war torn areas have memories of horrific realities that can be triggered by what we consider to be ordinary things. 

I especially appreciate how Rebecca Green's illustrations portray the multicultural classrooms I taught in across my teaching career. It both represents the reality and shows us how we can all come together in love and hope for the future. 

What I didn't know until I read the note from Saoussan at the end, is that this story is based on her experiences. When she was in second grade she wrote a letter to Robert Munsch telling him of her challenges here in Canada. The two of them exchanged letters and this book was the result. The royalties are split between the two authors. 

While learning more about this book I discovered this little film created by the National Film Board of Canada that is based on Saoussan's experiences. 

While this story takes place here in Canada, it is an important message for readers everywhere to help us understand and find compassion for others. I highly recommend this book for school and classroom libraries. 

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