Thanks to Nimbus Publishing who sponsored this post (and provided a book for a giveaway) so that we can help cultivate little readers who love local books!
The Land Beyond the Wall: an immigration story by Veronika Martenova Charles is about a young girl named Emma who lives in a land “where people speak in whispers and no flowers grow.” She escapes to Halifax and lands at Pier 21, knowing the cost of her journey is to lose everything, including her voice. She uses art to find her place in her new home and discover her voice again.
This is the July pick for the Itsy Bitsy Nimbus Book Club and we've created a couple reading extension activities and adventures for this book to help children better understand the story and the plight that many refugees still face today.
Through the story Emma dreams of becoming an artist. In Prague, that dream is ridiculed and dismissed. In Halifax, where she can not communicate verbally with anyone because of the language barrier, the woman who is looking after her notices her interest in art and gives her a set of paints that eventually leads to her “finding her voice.”
Emma was particularly inspired by nature and loved the colours of her new land, especially gardens and flowers.
Take the children outside to a garden or park area and provide them with something to draw with (markers, crayons, colouring pencils, paints) and paper. Talk them them about how many immigrants and refugees may not come from places with lots of green spaces and how lucky we are to have this; and one way to appreciate it is to capture it through art, as Emma did.
Have them look around and really notice all of the flowers, trees, and beauty in nature that we take for granted in our homeland. Talk about how many petals are on each flower, what the stems and leaves look like, and how many different colours are on each plant; then encourage them to draw a celebration of nature, using as many colours as they want, as Emma did when she finally found freedom and her voice.
A follow-up to this activity could be to turn the artwork into welcome cards or posters as part of a donation to a new immigrant family in need.
PACK A SUITCASE
Emma had only a few moments to make the decision to leave her home behind in the search for a better life. This meant she wasn't able to take anything with her except her favourite doll. When she arrived in Halifax she had to rely on the kindness of strangers to feed, shelter, and clothe her. This is a reality of many immigrant and refugee children who arrive to a new land with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Talk about this to the children and then ask them if they had only a few minutes to decide what to take with them to a new land, what would they pack? This activity puts the concept into reality.
Set out a small suitcase or backpack and tell the children that they should pretend they are going on a long journey and leaving their home forever, like Emma, and can only fill this one suitcase. Talk about what they might need day in and day out for the journey and in their new homeland such as food, clothes, blankets, entertainment.
After the suitcases are full talk about the items that were chosen (clearly my children both see peanut butter as an essential item) and identify what things they remembered and what important things they may have forgotten, or didn't have room for, and how they may get those things when they got to their new home.
Warning: this activity was more emotional for one of my kids than I anticipated. The realization that many children need to leave EVERYTHING behind to find a safe place to live was overwhelming and we needed to spend some time talking through those feelings, and providing reassurances that we would not have to leave our home in this way.
We also decided to add this follow-up activity to help those children that do.
Follow-up: Suggest to children that they share some of the things they have with a new immigrant family in need in their community. If they're so inspired, they could refill the same bag used in the activity with clothing, food, and toys they wish to donate to the families.
PIER 21 ADVENTURE
Pairing a trip to Pier 21 is a natural extension of reading this book. This is where Emma first arrives in Halifax. The museum has a children's section that can really help kids understand what it must have been like to be a child on a long boat journey, and what happened after they arrived in Halifax. We visited Pier 21 last year, click here to read more about the activities there for little kids and you'll see how it can support this book.
WIN THIS BOOK!
We’ve teamed up with Nimbus Publishing to give away a copy of The Land Beyond the Wall: an immigration story. Click on this link and hop on over to facebook. Then LIKE the Itsy Bitsy Haligonians Facebook page, LIKE the status, and COMMENT on the status. One random winner who has done all three tasks will be drawn on Tuesday, July 25 at 8 p.m. AST. Good luck!
*Winners must be age of majority in their home province/state and be residents of North America. This contest is no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
Thanks for joining us! If you haven't read our other book club posts yet, be sure to check out Atlantic Animal ABC (part 1 and part 2), Let's Read, The Snow Knows, Abigail's Wish, and A Harbour Seal in Halifax, and Be A Night Detective. Our next book will be announced in a few weeks on Facebook!