Sunday 24 September 2017

Refugee children have written a book of fairy tales and it's just awesome

Travelling Tales features chickens fighting an alien invasion among its eight stories.

By Nicola Irwin

A collection of fairy tales written by child refugees in Greece has gone on sale to help those like the book’s authors.

Travelling Tales features a rugby-playing dog, a king who grew to love animals and chickens fighting an alien invasion among its eight stories.

The book is the brainchild of Brazilian journalist Debora de Pina Castiglione and her sister Beatriz. The two combined their love of words and illustrations to create the book but the ideas came directly from the children.

Debora ran workshops with Syrian and Kurdish children aged between four and 14 years old, at three refugee camps close to Thessaloniki in Vasilika, Lagadikia and Oreokastro.

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It gave the children something to do without focusing on their own lives.

“The idea was not to have the children talk about their journeys or experiences fleeing war, at least not directly,” Debora said. “It was to let them tell the stories they wanted to, in ways they chose themselves.

“I think it’s important for young people to engage with one another. Children all over the world are watching the refugee situation, or hearing it on news programmes their parents watch and listen to, and as well as hoping it would be an interesting project for the children at the camps, I wanted to do something so the children outside of the crisis could see the children caught up in it on their own terms, as children with fun and interesting stories, just like they are.”

And there is something entirely captivating about the stories. In The Travelling Princess, Amira shuns her royal title to live as a poor person who goes around giving away gold she found as she explored the world.

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In Aliens vs Chicken, Earth is under attack from extraterrestrials who want to steal all the chicken eggs in the world. While humans are relieved about the aliens’ demands, the chickens are not happy and fight back, reclaiming the eggs.

The story was written by nine-year-old Shahd who lives in the military camp of Lagadikia. Debora describes her stories as “full of adventure”.

“Her creativity reminds us that there are heroes even where we least expect to find them.”

“We spent four months with the children,” Debora added. “In some cases, the children spoke English very well, and had quite clear ideas of their stories. In others, we worked with a translator, and also spent time with them to help them develop their ideas, to make the stories hold together better.

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“But the point was that these are the stories of the children, so we didn’t change their words, or add anything they did not include themselves.”

Five professional illustrators helped to bring the stories to life, including Beatriz.

The book was published last month and is available in English as well as Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Dutch. It is for sale via Amazon priced at £10.

Money collected from the sale of the book will be used to help support projects that look for alternative housing solutions to the military camps.

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