If you were to graph the number of children’s picture books in which immigration plays a significant role, you’d see a marked uptick when you hit the last decade. Part of what makes this so interesting is the wide array of books that have come out. Wordless, metaphorical, deadly serious, or done with exquisite illustrations. Some are memoirs while others are wholly fictional. Sometimes it feels like I’ve seen so many, and yet I’ve never seen anything like Zahra Marwan’s WHERE BUTTERFLIES FILL THE SKY. There’s a lightness to it, even in the midst of a deadly serious topic, that isn’t like anything else out there.
Here’s the plot description from the publisher:
An evocative picture book debut that tells the true story of the author’s immigration from Kuwait to the United States.
Zahra lives in a beautiful place where the desert reaches all the way to the sea and one hundred butterflies always fill the sky. When Baba and Mama tell her that their family is no longer welcome here and they must leave, Zahra wonders if she will ever feel at home again–and what about the people she will leave behind? But when she and her family arrive in a new desert, she’s surprised to find magic all around her. Home might not be as far away as she thought it would be.
With spare, moving text and vivid artwork, Zahra Marwan tells the true story of her and her family’s immigration from Kuwait, where they were considered stateless, to New Mexico, where together they made a new home.
You may have seen Zahra’s photo essay at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast last week. If you haven’t, definitely give it a look as well.
And now, a talk!