The Banana-Leaf Ball
Written by Katie Smith Milway
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Published by Kids Can Press, Limited
Separated from his family when they were forced to flee their home, a young East African boy named Deo lives alone in the Lukole refugee camp in Tanzania. With scarce resources at the camp, bullies have formed gangs to steal what they can, and a leader named Remy has begun targeting Deo. Then one day a coach gathers all the children to play soccer. Though Deo loves soccer and has even made his own ball out of banana leaves, he’s unsure at first about joining in when he sees Remy on the field. But as Deo and the other boys get drawn into the game, everything begins to change. Their shared joy in playing provides the children — including Remy — with a sense of belonging. “Ball by ball, practice by practice, children who were once afraid of each other laugh together,” the book explains, and “no one feels so alone anymore.”
Based on a true story, Katie Smith Milway’s inspiring tale shows how a desperate situation can be improved by finding common ground through play. It provides a perfect starting point for discussing the social justice issues surrounding the growing number of refugees worldwide. Award-winning Shane W. Evans’s artwork powerfully and poignantly personalizes for children the experience of refugees. Furthermore, the book examines the value of using sports to build pro-social behavior, particularly as it relates to bullying. By depicting characters who change and evolve over the course of the story, kids of all backgrounds and experiences will find something positive to relate to. The back matter contains information about the “real” Deo, instructions for games that build trust and inclusion through play, and suggestions for how to support play-based nonprofit organizations.
Primary ISBN: 9781771383318
Available As: Hardcover
Middle Grade, Age 08 or older
Community Represented: Burundian/Burundian American
Themes: Loss of Childhood, Refugee Camp, Refugee: Gang Violence
Character’s New Arrival/New American Status: Refugee
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