Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders

by | Jan 12, 2020 | Book Review, Fiction, Illustrated book

Book Details

Migrations: Open hearts, Open borders
Ed. International Centre for the Picture Book in Society, illus. multiple illustrators. Herefordshire: Otter-Barry Books, hb, 9 781 9109 5980 0, 2019, £9.99, 112pp.
Collection of illustrations on a theme, 10+ years

This is a small book but thick enough to contain many of the designs that arrived at The International Centre for the Picture Book in Society addressing the subject of Migrations back in 2017. The original exhibition of post cards from illustrators across the world moved from Worcester to be shown at BIBIANA, Bratislava, in September 2017.

The book comes with a short foreword by Shaun Tan and biographical notes on its more than fifty artist contributors. Each artist has a double page spread, one page for an image of their post card and one for the illustration. Whether there was an original specification that the illustration should feature a bird or whether so many illustrators chose this theme that it made sense to make it the theme of the book, I do not know. There is an immediate resonance, of course, for both post cards and birds can cross borders freely.

Nevertheless, there is a surprising variety in how the theme is treated. Jan Klassen’s thrush is simply a thrush and Shaun Tan’s paper bird takes flight from a torn letter. Sometimes the illustrations have a direct bearing on the dangers that some migrants face. Marija Prelog’s robin looks down on human forms that may be swimming, crawling, or chillingly lifeless. Inga Grimm pictures a (giant?) pelican who has rescued migrants in life jackets packed within a capacious bill.

But more often illustrators focus on the individual experience, the mixture of loss and hope involved in the movement from one home to another. In his few words to accompany the picture of a bird soaring above the turbulence of a rocky shore, P J Lynch expresses the feelings of many of his fellow contributors: “Wishing that everyone… with hope for a better future… will be met with a warm welcome… Safe Journey.” Proceeds from the sale of the book go to IBBY and to Amnesty.

Review by Clive Barnes