From Far Away, written by Robert Munsch and Saoussan Askar with art by Rebecca Green, is a picture book based on Saoussan’s experience as a child immigrating to Canada from a wartorn country. The book starts with dialogue about being shot at, having no food and hearing big booms that cause the roof of Saoussan’s family’s home to fall off. These experiences result in her family leaving their home. Saoussan’s initial school experiences are difficult. Because of the language barrier, she doesn’t understand what her teacher is saying and when kids try to talk to her, she can’t answer. Saoussan feels frustrated and isolated.
This book contains some great insight into the experiences students may have when they are beginning life in a new country and a new language. Saoussan describes how she would crawl out and back into the classroom to go to the washroom when the teacher wasn’t looking because she didn’t know how to ask. Another time she saw a paper skeleton in the hallway and thought it was evil. She notes she thought people were going to start shooting each other here, which caused her to scream. She had nightmares about skeletons at school and told her father she didn’t want to go back.
He reassured her that people here do not shoot each other.
Once Saoussan learned English she began to make friends and school started to be fun. She states in the book that she is now in Grade 2, the best reader and speller in the class; the teacher complains that she is never quiet.
From Far Away talks beautifully about experiences of immigration from a child’s perspective. This would be a great book to add to a language arts program or simply use to educate students about immigration and life in a new language. From Far Away can be embedded throughout the curriculum, specifically focusing on equity, citizenship and social justice. This book would be appropriate for junior and intermediate levels.
Lindsay Freedman is a member of the Peel Teacher Local.