Ali’s Boat

Today I made the kids bring in all the books, and the basket full of books and bits and pieces, from the car.

Included in that basket of goodies was this storybook.

When we were at The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane we visited the Children’s Gallery. My two leapt straight into the art and activities on offer.

One of the activities was inspired by this book. The name of the book had me captivated, and the story had me weeping. It isn’t meant to have you weep, it is meant to make you think, as all books do.

Why did I weep? Well, firstly the name of the book. My children attend a primary school where Ali is an extremely common name. Most of those Ali’s are first generation Australian from Lebanon. Their parents and grandparents would have come to Australia seeking refuge from a war torn land. These days Australia is keeping refugee children in prisons – I am sure that there would be Ali’s in Nauru.

Then there is my husband, who’s called by this name by all his family, though with a different emphasis than the Ali of the Middle East. My in-laws lived in Aiden just before he was born, and so many of their friends there reckoned he was named after them. Or so the story goes.

The story is so beautifully crafted. It was inspired by a letter the author received from his nephew, wishing that the boat he had drawn on his note would take him from Baghdad to the Netherlands to him.

The book is sparsely illustrated, with the all the imaginative ways that Ali could travel, and how beautifully he could journey. The prose is stunning and so thought provoking.

The book ends with instructions of how to make a boat to carry your dreams. A simple origami boat. This was the activity associated with the story in the gallery. People were asked to write their dream on a piece of paper and construct a boat to leave on the wavy shelf in the gallery.

My favourite piece of advice in the story is “Don’t look at the snakes. Take only the ladders.”

I think my daughter has a lot of dreams and wishes. She made six boats this afternoon. I wish that she always finds safe refuge at home, and never needs to leave her country under terrible circumstances.

Ali’s Boat

Text and illustrations by

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji

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