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Children's picture book artists tell migrants' stories through postcards

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An invitation to illustrators the world over to visualise the lot of the refugee using bird imagery resulted in a remarkable book of drawings and poems

• See a gallery of more postcards

It was Piet Grobler and Tobias Hickey, founders of the International Centre for the Picture Book in Society at the University of Worcester, who first came up with the idea: they invited illustrators, through social media and word of mouth, to contribute a bird postcard, as a metaphor for human migration, with a message attached. It could be whatever the illustrators liked: a poem, a quote, a personal greeting and had to carry a postage stamp from their country. The result was overwhelming and moving: 300 postcards flew in and were exhibited at the Bratislava Biennale (and later in South Africa and Nami Island in South Korea). Postcards were hung on vertical wires, the organisers’ intention to “replicate the precarious nature of flight”. If you touched a card, the others would swivel and move, the entire structure would tremble – a silent communications network.

This immersive show was inspired by what it is to flee on a wing and a prayer. And now there is a stunning postcard-size book, Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders (published by Otter-Barry Books), which includes a selection of 50 of these images and other, more recently received illustrations. Publisher Janetta Otter-Barry says making the selection was difficult, but the result is invigoratingly various with big names (Petr Horáček, Nicola Davies, Jon Klassen) alongside many unknowns. As a children’s books publisher (she was once director of Frances Lincoln), she sees it as essential “to have hope”. It is the defining quality of Migrations.

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