A raw, startling portrait of migration.

Kirkus Reviews Starred


Migrants is a vital and powerful wordless picture book of courage, loss and hope—the definitive story of what it takes to migrate to a new land.

Illustrated by Issa Watanabe

  • Description

    A heartstoppingly beautiful wordless picture book about migration and empathy.

    The migrants must leave the forest. Borders are crossed, sacrifices made, loved ones are lost. It takes such courage to reach the end. At last the journey is over and the migrants arrive. This is the new place.

    Through extraordinarily powerful images, Migrants narrates the journey of a group of animals that leaves behind a leafless forest. With forceful simplicity, Migrants shows us the courage, loss and underlying hope migration takes. And that arriving in a new land may mean burying a portion of the past.

    Children will empathise quickly with the elegantly illustrated animal characters, each of whom have their own identity with details like clothing, colour choices and expressions. The dark pages add weight to the silence of their journey and the individual animals help make the story a universal one. A perfect book to help teach children about refugees and migration, with humanity, inclusivity and empathy.

    Readers can’t fail to be moved by this deeply emotional and thought-provoking tale.

    Issa Watanabe was born in Peru in 1980. She has led and developed several projects to promote social integration through art, published a number of books and was selected for the Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Book Fair 2018.

  • Book Details

    Country of Origin México
    Reader Age 0-2 year, 2-5 year, 5-7 year
    Book Size

  • Reviews

    1. USBBY

      USBBY Outstanding International Book 2021

    2. The Children’s Book Council

      CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books 2021

    3. Bank Street College of Education

      Bank Street Best Children’s Book 2021

  • Reviews

    1. Books Ireland Magazine

      The intense, darkened background palette, and careful detail and vibrancy to each animal’s character, do great justice to articulate the realities and hardships faced through forced migration, with grace and nuance. An important story, told with sensitivity and a firm understanding of the form, this is an excellent wordless picture-book.

    2. Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children’s and Young Adult Literature

      Superior in style, liveliness, integrity and format… definitely recommended for all libraries.

    3. USBBY

      Magnificent illustrations with black backgrounds and vibrant colors effectively tell this wordless tale about migration.

    4. The School Reading List

      Destined to be a modern classic, this breathtaking wordless picture book depicts a group of migrants on a dangerous journey.

    5. Letterbox Library

      This is tough but stunning. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful. You could start so many conversations [with this]- climate change, animal extinction as well as migration.

    6. What Do We Do All Day?

      This gorgeous, wordless picture book tells the story of a difficult journey undertaken by a group of diverse migrants.

    7. Scottish BookTrust

      This book is perfect for exploring with children. It will open conversations around migration and what it means to leave home to seek refuge.

    8. The Horn Book

      This powerful portrait — stark, eloquent, and utterly devoid of sentimentality — depicts the arduous, dangerous journeys of migrants all across the globe. It’s a small book that tells a big story of loss and courage.

    9. The Pirate Tree

      I don’t think I can come up with enough superlatives for Watanabe’s superb illustrations. She captures a range of emotions in the faces of the anthropomorphic animals.

    10. The English Association

      The range of emotional responses is a testimony to the skill of the illustrator. Thought-provoking and moving, this exceptional book will resonate with readers of any age.

    11. Sal’s Fiction Addiction

      No words are needed. The impact of the visual storytelling has a far greater impact than adding text could ever have.

    12. The School Librarian

      The story is powerfully told, each illustration showing the migrants accepting each other and working together to try to survive and reach safety, highlighting the irrelevance of difference as they work for a common goal.

    13. Kiss the Book Jr. blog

      The illustrations are colorful and exquisite; bright colors on a black background…It’s a gentle book that makes one think, and a great way to jump start discussions.

    14. Books for Keeps

      5 stars…hauntingly beautiful…We bring our own experiences to this book, and some readers may find this image challenging. But many children welcome opportunities to talk about things that matter, and do so with unexpected insight…There’s a timeless sense of significance about these otherworldly spreads. Packed with emotion and reminding us of things once known and half-remembered, they resemble frames from a film whose complex whole we cannot see. They do not tell us what to think, or promote a political viewpoint – but they do urge us to feel, imagine and respond. This book has many meanings and every reader’s experience will be different. But its fundamental message may be that we are all connected, and every individual counts…Migrants demands and deserves our attention, and readers of all ages will be moved by its beauty, emotional impact and relevance.

    15. The Listener, 50 Best Kids’ Books of 2020

      Rather than protecting children from difficult themes, she uses animals to wordlessly convey the hurt and sacrifice but ultimately underlying hope of such forced journeys.

    16. Reading Time

      Although this is a wordless picture book, it is not really one for very small children. They would no doubt enjoy the illustrations of animals, but the deeper allegorical meaning of the book might well be difficult for them to understand. There is, however, a great deal to discuss with older children and in classes. It is topical and moving exploring loss and hope as well as being a tribute to those who have to leave their homelands and have the courage to make this often hazardous journey to try to make a better life for them and their families.

    17. Calling Caldecott by The Horn Book

      This story, altogether devoid of sentimentality, is stark. And it stays with you.

    18. The Horn Book

      This powerful portrait—stark, eloquent, and utterly devoid of sentimentality—depicts the arduous, dangerous journeys of migrants all across the globe. It’s a small book that tells a big story of loss and courage.

    19. Midwest Book Review, Children’s Bookwatch

      With his museum quality artwork transforming what might have been an ordinary picture book for children ages 5-9 into an extraordinary visual storytelling experience with a critically relevant and timely message about emigrants, Issa Watanabe’s “Migrants” will be an immediate and enduringly treasured addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

    20. Kids’ Book Buzz

      The images are somber and expressive; the refugees are grief-stricken and dignified in their struggle. The artist has delivered her message. There is the harsh reality, but there is also hope. Words are not needed.

    21. Poetry Box

      The illustrations are breathtaking. You feel them to the core. Each character is lovingly brought to life. You feel the story of a group of migrants to the core. There is heartbreak and there is hope.
      Migrants is an important book and is so very special. It gathers words and it is beyond words.

    22. Youth Services Book Review

      This is a conceptual book, loaded with symbolism. Every page is somber and dark, which reinforces the seriousness of the animals’ predicament, but also throws their colorful feathers and fur into sharp relief…The amount of detail is astounding and the quality of the artwork is very high. The eeriness of the setting and the sadness of the animals’ predicament is profound.

    23. 100 Scope Notes, School Library Journal

      Wordless, finely detailed, and powerful.

    24. Booktrailers4kidsandYA

      Migrants is a stunning wordless picture book…It is a book which will encourage discussion about what it means to be a refugee and the terrible journey many people have had to endure…It is powerful. The artwork is nothing short of stunning and each and every page could hang in a gallery and perhaps it should, so we are reminded just how lucky we are.

    25. Asset Reading Advocate

      Migrants is an intensely powerful wordless picture book that captures the hope, courage and loss of a group of migrants. Incredibly beautiful and poignant, my words cannot do justice to the message of this important book.

    26. Nic Book Panda

      this is one of those amazingly simple yet powerful children’s books that adults and children alike can appreciate.⁣..This will make a beautiful and important addition to your collection of children’s books! Highly recommend⁣.

    27. ReadPlus

      Highly recommended. The illustrations are stunning, portraying a group of people as animals, finding their way in the dark, unsignposted, sheltering where they can in the trees and on the beach. The black colour is continued throughout the book, giving an ominous, portentous and foreboding overlay to the outcome of these migrants. Readers cannot help but reflect on the images they have seen on the nightly news, seeing parallels in Watanabe’s images, so powerfully portrayed.
      This is not an easy book to read, throwing up images of people like you and me finding themselves in situations where they must flee. We follow their journey with wet eyes.

    28. Red Reading Hub

      Issa Watanabe has created without a single word, one of the most harrowing portrayals of migration I’ve seen in a book.
      With her characters standing out starkly against the constant black backdrop, each illustration captures the determination and dignified demeanour of the travellers; yet, she leaves space for readers to do some of the interpretation themselves.
      Truly a visual tour-de-force, albeit one that leaves us feeling raw and tearful.

    29. Miriam Jessie

      It is profound, complex and moving…In a world that often answers children with shallow responses or overwhelms with explicit details this book walks between the tension. It is sad, haunting, tender and gut wrenching but it leaves the reader to draw conclusions.This book is an excellent example of why picture books are for all ages and art is important in the world.

    30. Publisher’s Weekly

      Watanabe captures with grace both dignity and determination, and the brilliance of her art’s hues against a velvety black backdrop gives the somber spreads great visual power.

    31. Library Mice

      A beautiful, powerful silent narrative.

    32. Sophie Van den Linden

      This is a story about migration, a story about the threat of death and the danger of migration. The story brings this danger to the table with an incredible aesthetic—colour over a very high-pitched black. It includes a character who is a symbol of Death. Though at a distance from the animals, it follows them throughout their journey. There is also a sense of displacement, of movement, of living, which opposes Death. It is only when the animals look back that they realise what they have lost.

    33. Kirkus, Starred Review

      It’s a rare feat: a wordless picture book in which the absence of text intensifies the stories it tells. With its stark dearth of color, seen only where necessary, and evocative imagery, the artist’s pictures make the migrant’s journey — distinct yet everyday — feel palpable. A raw, startling portrait of migration.

Available worldwide from your local bookstore or online.

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