If You See a Bluebird
If You See a Bluebird
Ali remembers the tall mulberry tree in their backyard in Kabul, Afghanistan, its branches full
of sweet and silky purple fruit. He could see the whole neighborhood from his favorite branch. He suddenly feels an ache in his stomach. He misses home.
Ali and his family fled Kabul after the war broke out. One day, soldiers came to their house. They broke his mom’s ghichak and knocked Nana’s picture from the wall. Ali hid under his bed for a long time.
That night, Ali’s dad called a family meeting. “Kabul isn’t safe anymore,” he said. “We must leave now.”
The whole family had to pack quickly. Just one backpack each. Ali gathered one pair of pants, two shirts, two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, three handfuls of dried mulberries, and a bottle of water. He tried to fit his stuffed animals, Ted and Splash, into his backpack too. But Nana said, “Choose one.” Ali chose Ted. He’d had him for the longest time.
The morning I opened If You See a Bluebird, I found myself embarking on a journey, a journey with Ali, a young boy from Afghanistan. Once a refugee, he is now seeking a sense of home. The story unfolds gently. Ali and his Nana, under a tree, breakfast in hand. A bluebird swoops past. A wish to be made before it disappears, Nana tells him. A wish that could come true. This moment, simple yet profound, sets the stage for Ali's journey. A journey of self-discovery. A journey of understanding what home truly means. Home. A concept so simple, yet so profound. Not just a physical place. It's a feeling. A sense of belonging. It wraps around you like a warm blanket on a cold night. Ali embarks on this journey, navigating through the tumultuous seas of longing and the tranquil waters of acceptance. He learns a valuable lesson. Home is where the heart is. It's nestled in the warmth of his family's love. A lesson that resonates with each beat of my own heart.
Bahram Rahman, the author, is a storyteller. His journey from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Canada in 2012, as a refugee, breathes life into the narrative. His words are not just sentences on a page. They're a heartfelt conversation with the reader. Rahman's writing is evocative. It paints vivid pictures of Ali's emotions and experiences. Each word, each sentence, each paragraph is a brush stroke on the canvas of the reader's imagination. A masterpiece that lingers long after the book is closed.
Gabrielle Grimard, the illustrator, paints with colors and emotions. Her illustrations are a visual treat. A feast for the eyes and the soul. They beautifully complement Rahman's words, adding depth and emotion to the story. Each illustration is a story in itself. A silent yet powerful narrative that enhances the emotional depth of the story.
At the end of the book, there's an author's note. A touching reflection on the experiences of refugees. The strength they find in the face of adversity. Rahman writes, "Every year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes because of war... What gives them the strength to move forward after so much is taken by war?" This question occupies his thoughts when he listens to family and friends tell stories of uprooting old lives and building new ones. The author's note is a poignant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. A theme that resonates throughout the book.
If You See a Bluebird is more than a book. It's an experience. A journey. I would recommend it to anyone who has ever wondered about the true meaning of home. It's a story that transcends age. It teaches us about love, home, and the strength of the human spirit. For educators, this book could serve as a valuable tool. It introduces children to the experiences of refugees. It fosters empathy and understanding.
As I closed the book and looked out of my window, I saw my own home in a new light. It was a reflection of the power of Rahman's storytelling and Grimard's illustrations. This book, it stays with you. Long after you've turned the last page.
Emma Chen is an Assistant Professor in Elementary Education with emphasis on Children’s and Young Adult Literature at Western Washington University.