Monday 5 December 2011

A Safe Place to Live

A Safe Place to Live written, illustrated and published by Bic Walker
RRP $20
ISBN 978 0 646 56516 3
Reviewed by Hazel Edwards
Available in selected bookstores and directly from
As a 3 year old,  Bic was a boatperson, a Vietnamese refugee. Now she is an architect, wife and mother of two children.

Ashburton Primary School is our link. Bic’s children now attend this school, and in my childhood, so did I, from prep to Grade 6  Last Friday night, enthusiastic Asian families filled the hall for the book launch. In the 1950s, no-one in my class was born outside Australia. A picture book travels well across cultures and helps explain the  universal story of the individual, which in this story is the family voyage on a  refugee boat.

When Bic e-mailed an invitation to launch  her self-published picture book ‘A Safe Place To Live’ I agreed. Bic’s architectural skills are apparent in her design of the paintings which form the illustrations of this large sized picture book. The tone of the story is matter of fact to make this sensitive subject approachable. ‘A Safe Place to Live’ is the kind of picture book you can recommend, and reads well aloud because although it includes the sub-text of politics, pirates and danger, it also has the courage of the quest for a new life, which is universal.

The voice is child-centred. The figures are stylised in a naïve, child-like way. The colour is striking.
My favourite quote is:  My brother took his kite, my sister took her teddy and I only took with me my memories. 

It starts with ‘Once upon a time, my family lived in a place which was unsafe…People were always fighting and there was war everywhere. Despite the fictional ‘once upon a time’, the story follows the facts, as remembered by her older sister. This picture book is faction, but the child is generic.

At the end, the photo ID of 3 year old refugee Bic  holding the ID board with her refugee number at the camp, and the acknowledgements, indicate the depth of this picture book.

Sometimes a story can travel even further than a person. ‘A Safe Place to Live’ would make a good audio story and could be translated or become a dual language book with some tweaking of the illustrations for space.

Highly recommended for all ages and especially for schools and libraries with local refugee communities to initiate discussion with locals who are not refugees.

Hazel Edwards ( is a National Ambassador for the  2012 International Year of Reading, a nominee for the 2012 Astrid Lindgren Award and an author of picture books such as ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake’ (Penguin)and co-author of the YA novel ‘f2m:the boy within’(Ford Street) She also attended Ashburton Primary School

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