REVIEW: Story Boat

Story Boat
Author: Kyo Maclear
Illustrator: Rashin Kheiriyeh
Tundra Books
Ages 4-8

The love and bond between the travellers is apparent as they set up camp from place to place, setting down and uprooting again and again.

Where is home? Where is here? When you are a child, home is usually where your things are. This is particularly true for kids, being the scavenging hoarders they are. And here? Home is here and here is where you are. So what happens to your sense of home, when you have to leave everything you know behind to travel to distant lands? 

In this book, Kyo Maclear takes on the heavy heavy lift of writing about the journey of a family fleeing their home. The illustrations by Rashin Kheiriyeh, herself a refugee whose family fled Iran in 1980, are no less miraculous in telling this difficult story in a way that is accessible to little kids. 

The child protagonist, a little girl, and a boy who might be her brother, are travelling with a group of people away from their home. There are adults who seem worried, the babies are well, babies, then there are older folks in the group, and there is a cat.

The love and bond between the travellers is apparent as they set up camp from place to place, setting down and uprooting again and again. The children find ways to amuse themselves, drawing, singing, playing, and letting their imaginations run wild. A cup is home. A boat – a vessel for both fuel and travel. A warm, comforting blanket is a sail. A lamp is a lighthouse guiding them, home perhaps?

Here is just here. / Here is this cup. / Old and fine, warm as a hug. / Every morning, / As things keep changing, / We sit wherever we are / And sip, sip, sip, / Sippy, sip, sip / Ahhhh / From this cup. /And this cup is a home.

There is joy in this book. The joy of the human spirit. In song, in the wonderment of a child, in a flower. In this book is a story. The story of all of us, of human endurance and perseverance. The end of the book is hopeful too, the group being welcomed with open, helping hands onto new shores.

Every week, / We dream and draw, / Make and play, / Search for treasure, / Find our way / And grow, / And wait / And wait / And wait / Adding words to this story. / And this story is a boat. / Here we are. / Here.

Maclear’s words are poignant and lyrical. Kheiriyeh’s illustrations are personal and wrenching – the limited color palette only deepening the symbolism of loss and longing. The orange vests worn by the travelers on their last leg of their journey by boat was definitely a punch in the gut to me as I recalled images of the refugees being turned away by European countries in the past few years. Obviously this will not resonate with the littlest readers, but, be warned.

A timely, beautifully told story, not to be missed. 

NOTE: By definition, a refugee refers to a person who has been forced to flee their home country and sought safety beyond its borders. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), 79.5 Million people have been forced to flee their homes, among them 26 million refugees, 13 million of those who are children under the age of 18. The rest are internally displaced in their countries of origin, in no less of dire circumstances. To learn more, please visit:

Story Boat (Support an Independent Bookstore)
Story Boat (Amazon)*

More books for this Age Group can be found here.

My thanks to Tundra Books for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.

Please, leave comments! I love a HEALTHY exchange of ideas. After all, critical thinking is essential to life.

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