Refugee Week: 3 graphic novels

It’s #TranslationThurs and this is part 4 of our 5-part series of recommended reads for children and young adults on the topic of refuge and asylum. There are many more reading tips including many in translation by Claire Storey over at her Refugee Week 2019 blog.

Today we cover our favourite graphic novels in translation and one by a Lebanese author originally in English…


alphaALPHA: ABIDJAN TO PARIS, by Bessora, illustrated by Barroux, translated from French by Sarah Ardizzone

Alpha Coulibaly is emblematic of the refugee crisis today – just one of millions on the move, at the mercy of people traffickers, endlessly frustrated, endangered and exploited as he attempts to rejoin his family, already in Europe. With a visa, Alpha’s journey would take a matter of hours; without one he is adrift for eighteen months. Along the way he meets an unforgettable cast of characters, each one giving another human face to the crisis. The book is presented in graphic novel format, with artwork created in cheap felt-tip pen and wash, materials Alpha himself might be able to access. Bringing together prize-winning novelist Bessora and award-winning artist Barroux, this is a timely and important account of one man’s desperate journey and comes to the UK market with a foreword by Michael Morpurgo. Supported by Amnesty International and English PEN Association.

If you’re exploring this topic with students of French, you might also want to track down the French edition, Alpha: Abidjan-Gare du Nord.



ESCAPE FROM SYRIA by Samya Kullab, illustrated by Jackie Roche (Firefly Books, 2017)

From the pen of former Daily Star (Lebanon) reporter Samya Kullab comes a breathtaking and hard-hitting story of one family’s struggle to survive in the face of war, displacement, poverty and relocation.







freedom hospital

FREEDOM HOSPITAL, by Hamid Sulaiman, translated from French by Francesca Barrie (Interlink, 2018)

* Winner English PEN Award * It is spring 2012 and 40,000 people have died since the start of the Syrian Arab Spring. In the wake of this, Yasmine has set up a clandestine hospital in the north of the country. Her town is controlled by Assad’s brutal regime, but is relatively stable. However, as the months pass, the situation becomes increasingly complex and violent. Told in stark, beautiful black-and-white imagery, Freedom Hospital illuminates a complicated situation with gut-wrenching detail and very dark humor. The story of Syria is one of the most devastating narratives of our age and Freedom Hospital is an important and timely book from a new international talent.

You can also find the original French edition here.


And you can find more recommendations of graphic novels about refugees and asylum seekers by:

* Calvin Reid at Publisher’s Weekly

* Kristyn Dorfman at School Library Journal

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