Addressing potentially upsetting topics with younger children is a difficult undertaking, and Marin makes every effort, via the use of evocative digital collage illustrations and vivid prose, to make comprehensible to his readers the typically mature topics of racism, the dangers refugees face, and loneliness. However, the story’s word choice learns toward a more mature audience than that of the typical picture book. And one main element of the plot is not fully explained (the boys’ building of a “digital airplane”).
Moreover, the book’s bleak, abrupt ending, in which the boys burn to death as the result of a hate crime perpetrated by Gabriel’s father, will strike many adults as inappropriate for picture book readers. While there is some hope—the narration describes Jibreel’s dwelling turning into an airplane and taking off with “the two angels inside,” as though to carry them to the next phase of their cosmic journey—this is a shocking development, and the last sentence of the book is “life isn’t fair.” This ambitious story is well told, but its subject matter may be too much for young kids.
Takeaway: This dark picture book addresses racism, hate crimes, and cosmic unfairness in bleak fashion.
Great for fans of: Irena Kobald’s My Two Blankets, Wendy Meddour’s Lubna and Pebble.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B
Loved it! 😍
A powerful, dense picture book about the friendship between a refugee and a suburb child. And the things that brought them together.
This is a dense, heartbreaking book with a very powerful message. The tale about two boys, with different backgrounds, but similar losses and dreams, that became friends. They shared hopes, passions, and supported each other.
Gabriel lived with his dad in a big house in a fancy neighbourhood. His mom passed away the night he was born. He is mostly on his own, reading and playing video games. His dad doesn't play with him but takes him to the beach every Sunday. And was at the beach that he met Jibreel.
Jibreel lived with his dad on an upside-down boat. The same boat they used to cross the sea. He was alone most of his time as he lost her mom when they were crossing (she drowned) and his dad worked seven days a week to support them.
The friendship grew stronger fast and the boys enjoyed each other company. They played, made plans for the future, and started a new project together, based on a passion and dream they had in common. Unfortunately, they will also be together to face hate, judgment, and violence.
Only a few times I read a children's picture book like this. It's a really good one, but also dramatic, deep and with a sad story. From the characters' names choice (Gabriel is the message of God for Christians and Jibreel, is the chosen one to communicate Allah's messages to His profits according to Islamic faith), to the symbolism used by the author, it's a beautiful work. It's also a great tool to discuss how aggression, blind hate, and prejudice can affect all of us and the consequences are never positive.
Illustrations are artistic and beautiful. They enhance the words and complement them. You can feel the characters. Breathtaking and pungent.
A great addition to personal libraries and to schools and definitely a conversation starter. Group readings can benefit. The book certainly tackles important subjects that we sometimes avoid talking about with children... and we shouldn't.