Anisa’s Alphabet (Mike Dumbleton, illus by Hannah Sommerville, MidnightSun)
In this picture book, Anisa takes the reader though the alphabet, describing her journey from an unnamed war-torn country to a refugee camp, then on to an overcrowded boat towards supposed freedom and security. The words are few and the detailed graphic novel–style illustrations do most of the work in telling the story. From ‘B is for bombs, when fighting began’ to ‘O is for old boat, heading to sea’ and ‘V is for very scared, barely afloat’, Anisa charts her family’s traumatic quest for a better life. The plight of refugees is obviously a very serious issue and is not to be regarded lightly. While it is important to educate and draw attention to the issues they face, I’m not entirely convinced that an alphabet-based picture book is the best medium for this. Some may argue that Shaun Tan’s work is in a similar vein, however the target audience for Anisa’s Alphabet seems more ambiguous. Prolific writer Mike Dumbleton and well-known illustrator Hannah Sommerville have taken on a weighty topic here and have produced a good quality book; I just hope it will be pitched at the appropriate age range.
Katie Haydon is a former assistant editor of Books+Publishing