A topical, poignant retelling of the nativity.
Publication date: 12th November 2015
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Booth and Usher’s Refuge tells the story of the nativity in brief, from the donkey’s perspective. It follows the biblical narrative, whilst drawing clear, yet entirely indirect, parallels with the current refugee’s journey. The result is a picture book which creates a double world, the joy of Christmas with the real suffering of traversing expanses with a baby and “hoping for the kindness of strangers.”
I’m not the first to praise the political dimension of Nosy Crow’s recent publication but then, it was always meant to be at the forefront of the work. Literally, even, as the book comes with an image on the cover, notifying the buyer that £5 from the sale of the book goes to War Child, “in support of refugees.”
I have already spoken this week about ulterior motives in publishing, and what they mean when applied to genuinely good books. It would be possible to see the book as a gimmick if it were not so beautifully written and illustrated. However, it is not the charity donation which makes Refuge support refugees. It is the way the story weaves the traditional with the contemporary, and makes the reader re-evalute the present climate.
Books like Refuge make me wonder why adults think that children’s books are beneath them. This is a work which is current, even ironic at times, and fundamentally appealing to the human spirit. The narrative voice is clever and playful, with hints at a deeper understanding which fleshes out the picture book and motivates the reader. Most importantly, Booth manages to maintain the fundamental message throughout, whilst never making the reader feel like they are being fed ‘a message,’ expertly.
The illustrations are, for want of a better word, magical. The simple, minimalist lines and colours accentuate the verbal imagery and create the ideal atmosphere. The reader is guided emotionally from spread to spread by Usher’s creative choices, which are consistently on-point.
I would recommend this book to children with a love for interesting illustration, and a sensitivity to the lives of others. For adults, I would say anyone with an interest in the current climate towards refugees, and an appreciation of poetry.