In spite of all the kerfuffle about refugees, boat people, and ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ immigrants that we wrestle with, I think we can at least agree that every child should have a safe, happy childhood and feel loved – even if we can’t agree on the best way for that to happen.
My Two Blankets is a charming story about a young girl who ‘came to this country to be safe’ and the way she was able to reclaim a safe, happy and loved childhood.
From the beginning, the story invites us to consider the ways our own country could be strange and cold and sad to someone else.
The girl telling the story says that she wrapped herself ‘in a blanket of my own words and sounds.’
Then she met another young girl at a park and they slowly became friends, mainly through the words they learned together. And she started to construct a new blanket – one that she added new words to each day until it became just as ‘warm and soft and comfortable’ as her old blanket.
I love the illustrations – the bright oranges and reds of her old country and the greens and blues of her new country and how, on the very last page, they blend together to create a warm and inviting picture of life.
This is clearly a book that prompts thought about refugees, immigration and change. But it also provides an easy segue to thinking about how our actions affect others, the inevitable narrowness of the society we live in, the silent suffering that continues after we think the ‘problem’ has been solved (not just for refugees but for all of us in one way or another), and the importance of friendship.
It's also a really great introduction to metaphor – the blankets are a metaphor which is simply explained and very relatable. There are others, once the basic idea of metaphor is understood: the colours as metaphor for the way the girl sees her life, the words the girls work together to learn as metaphor for things that connect people - and so on.
And it's a wonderfully positive and enlightening book that engages on many fronts, including:
introducing young minds to refugee and immigration issues
thinking about and noticing others’ needs
talking about how colour influences the way we feel
talking about which words and sounds make us feel safe – and which don’t
talking about adapting to change
talking about how we can make blankets for ourselves that will help us to feel safe
reminding us that our words have power and weight and meaning
My Two Blankets was awarded Picture Book of the Year 2015 by the Childrens Book Council of Australia.