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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Sea Prayer, written by Khaled Hosseini and illustrated by Dan Williams. Riverhead Books, Penguin Random House, 2018. $19.95 ages 10 and up

"I wish you remembered Homs
as I do, Marwan.

In its bustling Old City,
a mosque for Muslims,
a church for our Catholic
and a grand souk for us all
to haggle over gold pendants
and fresh produce and bridal

As they stand on a beach awaiting sunrise and the boat that has promised passage from the nightmare they are living to safe harbor elsewhere, a father writes a poem to his young son. He shares his wish that Marwan, his son, will remember the peace and joy of growing up in Syria, in the town of Homs. He describes the beauty of his childhood surroundings and the adventures shared by the family. All of that happened in a time past, before the war, and the bombs, and the terror and destruction. This is what Marwan will remember.

"You know a bomb crater
can be made into a swimming hole.
You have learned
dark blood is better news
than bright."

The three now stand with so many others, worrying and impatient. He explains that they may not be welcome when they arrive at their destination. But, there is little to be done except to try for a better life. Marwan's mother does her best to reassure her husband.

"But I hear your mother's voice,
over the tide,
and she whispers in my ear,
"Oh, but if they saw, my darling.
Even half of what you have.
If only they saw.
They would say kinder things, surely.'"

Do we? Should we?

Compelled to write this book when he saw the pictures of Alan Kurdi washed up on the Turkish coast in 2015, Khaled Hosseini has turned that grief into a prayer to the sea to keep the refugee family safe. Dan Williams creates companion images that show the beauty of the early landscape, the devastation of war, and the uncertainty of the sea they must trust. 

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