My last two books published have featured Syrian child refugees who have made it to the UK to be taken in by families and communities.
I did this because I have been in several schools and communities that have children who are refugees from Syria (and other troubled places in the world) and heard their stories in the staff room at lunch time.
That – and reading books and articles about Syria today – motivated me to develop Yusra, Galip and Aylan as characters in my children’s books.
I did it, also, because I want children who are in all schools to be able to read about how we – in our relatively safe and stable country – can help people whose lives have been smashed to pieces and how we need to remember this country has a history of taking in and accepting refugees.
Gus the Fantastic Football Cat (Egmont, KS1) is about a Syrian girl and her dad who look after a rescue cat when they arrive in the UK from Syria. The parallel of the girl taken in by a UK community and her, in turn, taking a rescue cat in is the only thing about the story that relates to her background. The rest of the story is hopefully a lot lighter, as the cat reveals it can predict World Cup football results.
Pitch Invasion (Barrington Stoke, KS2) is a bit more direct. The story is about a haunted hillfort in Cornwall and a ghostbusting duo – Seth and Nadiya – who realise there is a parallel between the ghost of Iron Age refugees escaping the Romans by heading west and two Syrian boys – Galip and Aylan – who have recently been taken in by a Cornish family, after tragedy in Syria.
Both books would have worked well enough without introducing Yusra and Galip and Aylan. But, because they are being published last year and this, I think it works better that I did include them.