“By keeping the focus squarely on their child characters, Williams and Mohammed illuminate the plight of refugee children” —Kirkus Reviews
When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one. As the girls go about their routines washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important. Four Feet, Two Sandals was inspired by a refugee girl who asked the authors why there were no books about children like her. With warm colors and sensitive brush strokes, this book portrays the strength, courage, and hope of refugees around the world, whose daily existence is marked by uncertainty and fear.
Reviews & Accolades
“Based on Mohammed’s work with refugees in the city of Peshawar (on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border), this poignant story centers on two Afghani girls, each of whom ends up with half of a pair of sandals after relief workers bring used clothing to their refugee camp…Paired with Williams’s straightforward narrative, Chayka’s acrylic paintings, rendered in broad swaths of color, offer a glimpse of the seldom viewed, chore-filled lives of children in a refugee camp, where only boys can attend school and crowds fight for supplies and clothing. The bright yellow sandals, each decorated with a blue flower, shine against the muted desert landscape, a well-chosen and meaningful symbol of both privation and hope.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“The tragedy of refugee children all over the world is brought to life for young readers in this tale of two girls who meet in a refugee camp in Pakistan…A note adds information about refugees in general and on the experiences in a camp in Peshawar on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in particular.” —Children’s Literature
“By keeping the focus squarely on their child characters, Williams and Mohammed illuminate the plight of refugee children without preaching or pontificating…As the days pass, readers see their growing friendship and observe the harsh conditions of the camp…The girls’ decision to split the sandals once more ensures that their friendship won’t be forgotten, and it seems likely that their story will linger in listeners’ minds as well. Touching and true to life.” —Kirkus Reviews
“…Doug Chayka’s illustrations provide insight into the daily life of the camp in Peshawar, on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Patched tents cram together; people wait patiently in line to fetch water; the one school-room is packed with attentive boys…Young readers will be able to empathise with the essence of the story, that through sharing, both girls are able to enjoy each other’s friendship; and through friendship, some of the fear and loneliness they feel is soothed. By the end, they will also have been drawn into an awareness of the plight of refugees who live in camps. As a note at the end of the book points out, the majority of the world’s 20 million refugees are children. The authors are both involved in working with refugees and have drawn sensitively on their experiences to create a story which will not only draw young children into caring about the lives of children who live far away in refugee camps, but also help them to empathise with children like Lina, who may arrive in their own communities.” —Marjorie Coughlan, Paper Tigers
Refugee life, friendship, immigration
Peshawar refugee camp (Afghanistan-Pakistan border)
Since I have lived in other countries and cultures for extended periods of time throughout the last 30 years, it is only natural that I have come to use the material from these experiences in my writing. Beyond that meeting people from other cultures and experiencing life outside my own world of comfort is a passion and joy for me and all successful writing must grow out of the author’s passions.
When I wrote my first book I did have some concerns and was less than confident about how Galimoto, a book about a boy in Malawi, Africa, by a white woman from Connecticut, would be received. But I did my research which involved mostly getting to know the children of Malawi and following them as they worked and played. Knowing the language helped me a lot to understand the culture.
As I continued to travel and live abroad I began to realize that many of the children I met all over the work had much in common and I became more comfortable as I felt I knew my characters very well.
When Khadra asked me to co-author picture books about refugees, she told me that a young girl from Pakistan asked her why there were no books for children like her. I was intrigued but I had to do my research. I began volunteering with refugee children, interviewing them and reading fiction and non-fiction by and about refugees around the world. I caught the passion. Khadra was a kindred spirit with similar sensibilities toward the work as I have. She had the stories and I had the knowledge of the craft. It was a perfect match.
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