Seeking Refuge is, unfortunately, a timeless story. Though it is set during World War II and follows Marianne, an eleven-year-old Jewish girl fleeing from Germany, it could just as easily be a story of today’s refugees or of years prior to WWII. Told from Marianne’s point-of-view, it presents a perspective that makes the reader understand the humanity of refugees rather than the politics. Marianne’s confusion and constant struggle to define herself as who she is and not by how other people want her to be takes the reader on a journey of insightful unrest. I grew frustrated watching the refugee children having to deal with adults that are less compassionate and empathetic and more opportunistic that would use shaming to achieve their goals.
The story moves at a steady pace, mirroring how a refugee might actually feel, but the ending brings a satisfying resolution. The art, by illustrator Kathryn E. Shoemaker, is purely pencil with shaded backgrounds. Every page is filled with shading, making the panels as bleak as the story, but it is countered with a child’s innocence on how to keep moving forward from the past, please the present, and reach for a brighter future where she is reunited with her mutti (mother).
I was occasionally disoriented because the story can make quick jumps within a chapter as it moves from scene to scene, panel to panel. You can also lose yourself in the art and I inspected some pages more thoroughly and re-read areas where I did not understand which child was which or who was saying what when. Ultimately, it is not difficult to figure it out and the story benefits in a way because the lives of refugee children can make quick jumps, be confusing, and the children can become lost.
Seeking Refuge is an important story and I strongly suggest it to anyone of any age. It is a story that can be perfect for a parent or guardian to read along with their pre-teen or teen child to discuss a different worldview.