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Monday, July 22, 2019

Lubna and Pebble, written by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Daniel Egneus. Dial Books for Young Readers. Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 6 and up

"Soon, a little boy arrived.
At first, he had no words.
Just blinks and sneezes
and stares.

"This is my best friend, Pebble,"
Lubna said.

The little boy coughed. And
sneezed. Then smiled."

When Lubna arrives on the beach with her father in the middle of the night, she immediately finds a very special new friend - a 'shiny and smooth and gray' pebble. As she enters the refugee camp, she knows that her father and her pebble will help her feel safe in this unfamiliar place.

Giving her pebble a happy face with a found marker, Lubna takes it with her everywhere she goes. She tells Pebble her stories and shares her feelings.

"Lubna told Pebble everything.
About her brothers.
About home.
About the war.

Pebble always listened to her stories."

Sadness pervades this powerful story. It is amplified when another child, Amir, arrives at the camp. He, too, is scared. He finds a new friend in Lubna, who is kind and helpful as he adapts to this new home. As children do, they make the best of their circumstances, playing games together and loving Pebble. When Lubna's father announces that they will be leaving for a new home, Amir is distraught. After a sleepless night, Lubna knows what she can do to make things better for her new friend. She offers advice for Pebble's care, and boards the next ship with a hopeful heart.

The title page provides context for the coming story: a boat overflowing with people as it approaches the shore on a stormy sea. Marvelous close-up images of two young children beckon to readers as this important story begins and ends. Both are smiling, and clutching a pebble. Daniel Egneus uses a warm palette of color to offer a feeling of peace in a chaotic world for both children. His art is full of emotion at every stage of the story; there is a sense of security in the curved lines, the father's presence, the play of the children and the warmth of their friendship.

The plight of refugees is constantly in the news these days. We can use stories such as this to help our kids understand what life is like for too many children in our world. Questions will be raised, answers are needed. Kindness is the one thing we can all provide without cost.

Personal, emotional and worthy of sharing in homes and classrooms to help children process a current and frightening world issue.

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