Wisp: A Story of Hope is another book that is an essential read about the refugee crisis.
Idris is a child refugee surrounded by fences and tents. He lives on the dirt land underneath the blazing sun with a lack of water to keep himself cool. This is the only life he has ever known but others in the camp have known better, they have memories of a world outside. When a Wisp lands on the barren ground that Idris calls home nobody but he notices it. When he holds it in his hands, the Wisp seeks out a person, a person with their own story to tell. And as the Wisp is placed into the hands of the person it has sought their memories are reawakened and their hopes for a better life are reignited. With each new Wisp, Idris has more hope of seeing lands far beyond his own. But when a Wisp turns up and it does not seek anyone out Idris is confused. It seems that the Wisp is meant for him, but how can it be when he has no memories other than the small, small world in which he has lived. Perhaps he doesn’t need memories of the past, perhaps his Wisp is meant for dreams of a future. A dream about a future yet to be decided…
The illustrations from Grahame Baker-Smith are striking. The darkness in much of the book is used effectively to replicate the dark situation of the refugees whilst the memories of better times are bright and the contrast between the two is powerful. I love the images of the Wisp; it looks magical, it’s light casting hope and light on those in the darkest of times.
Even though this is a book for younger children, Zana Fraillon does not shy away from the harsh realities that refugees face. She has expertly written about the refugee crisis in a sensitive way and has included some deliciously creative words in ‘gentlied' and ‘softlied’ (they just fit perfectly within the narrative). Yes the refugee crisis is awful and more must be done but this story is a read full of hope and strong memories about better times, and for Idirs, hopefully the times yet to come.
Recommended for 6+.