Book Advent – 10th December Refuge by Anne Booth illustrated by Sam Usher

This poignant retelling of the Nativity was published in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis sweeping the world.  A donation is made from the sale of each book to the charity War Child. At the time of publication the book felt both timeless and timely and sadly two years later it is as relevant now as it was then.

Refuge cover

The story is told from the point of view of the donkey and from the first words on the opening pages we know that this is the journey made by Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. The illustrations by Sam Usher show tiny figures looking vulnerable as they make their way to the distant city.  The sensitivity of the text and the simplicity of the illustrations combine beautifully to make this a short read but one with a big impact. The family scene in the stable is both loving and movingly poignant.  The visitors arrive as we expect, first the shepherds and then the kings but there is no heavenly choir of angels and it feels very much like the kindness of friends recognising and celebrating the significance of a baby’s arrival.

Refuge nativity

The threat of danger means that the little family must flee to safety and as the mother prepares to leave, the baby nuzzling at her neck, the story has a sense of reality to it. So the little donkey and the family set off through the night “hoping for the kindness of strangers.” A subtle but telling reminder that Jesus was a refugee too.  As they progress the illustrations change and the family are depicted in a warm orange glow. This biblical family find refuge, kindness and a warm welcome.  The reader is left wondering whether or not they would receive the same response now in our 21st century world.

This is a book that I have on my bookshelf even though I don’t have children the “right age” for it.  I think this is a thoughtful and important book and one that probably should be in all primary schools.

This lovely story would be very special read aloud to a wide age group and would prompt discussion with older children too. A wonderful Christmas gift.


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