Stormy Seas

Children’s Non-Fiction

STORMY SEAS: Stories of Young Boat Refugees
by Mary Beth Leatherdale, illustrated by Eleanor Shakespeare
April 2017 – Annick Press (Canada)

The plight of refugees risking their lives at sea has, unfortunately, made the headlines all too often in the past few years. This book presents five true stories, from 1939 to today, about young people who lived through the harrowing experience of setting sail in search of asylum: ruth and her family board the St. Louis to escape Nazism; Phu sets out alone from war-torn Vietnam; José tries to reach the united States from Cuba; Najeeba flees Afghanistan and the Taliban; and after losing his family, Mohamed abandons his village on the ivory Coast in search of a new life.

STORMY SEAS combines a vivid and contemporary collage-based design with dramatic storytelling to produce a book that makes for riveting reading as well as a source of timely information. These remarkable accounts will give readers a keen appreciation of the devastating effects of war and poverty on youth like themselves, and helps put the mounting current refugee crisis into stark context.

Mary Beth Leatherdale writes, edits, and consults on books, magazines, and digital resources for children and youth. Together with lisa Charleyboy, Mary Beth was the editor of two highly acclaimed books about indigenous youth: Dreaming in Indian and Urban Tribes. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Eleanor Shakespeare is an illustrator and designer specializing in collage and photomontage image making. She is the artist-in-residence at a high school in london, england.


“This composite portrait of the struggles of 20th- and 21st-century boat refugees is alternately harrowing, wrenching, and hopeful. […]Displacement, desperation, isolation, and persecution are common to all five stories, and although closing passages offer somewhat heartening updates on what happened to each individual, Leatherdale never sugarcoats the human cost of these tragedies. Shakespeare’s photo collages underscore the peril and perseverance of the journeys, which serve as powerful mirrors to current humanitarian crises. ”—Publishers Weekly,  STARRED

“Gut-punch of a volume […] offers an affecting perspective on the plight of refugees and emphasizes that this human-rights crisis is an ongoing, urgent issue.”—Booklist, STARRED

“A timely, powerful piece of nonfiction, this is a first purchase for most collections.”—School Library Journal, STARRED

“An important and powerful book that is sure to spark discussion about the refugee crisis. A must have purchase for school and public libraries.”—CM Magazine

“Timely stories of courage and resilience.”—The Banner

“[The] stories get gorgeously, affectingly enhanced by London-based artist Eleanor Shakespeare.” —Bookdragon, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

“An extraordinary resource, compelling in content and useful as a resource to launch research.” —Unpacking the Power of Picture Books