The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey

Written by Francesca Sanna
Illustrated by Francesca Sanna

7+ readers   Books of the Year   All Shortlists and Winners   Klaus Flugge Prize 2018   Refugees   UKLA 2017   

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One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Winner for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize | Winner of the UKLA 2017 Book Award | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2017 and awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour | A powerful picturebook which teacher judges described as “taking children to new experiences outside their own”.

What is it like to have to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? A mother and her two children set out on such a journey; one filled with fear of the unknown, but also great hope.

Francesca Sanna has won the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. She won for her book The Journey (Flying Eye Books), which tells the story of a mother and her two children fleeing war at home to find a new life in another country. Sanna was inspired to create the book after meeting two young girls in a refugee centre in Italy. She interviewed many more refugees after that, incorporating their stories into her book.

‘The shortlist featured five skilful and talented illustrators but The Journey is the most inventive and original of all the entries’, said judge Axel Scheffler, ‘The fear the family experiences is strongly expressed in the graphic language of the book which is beautifully designed. The stylish drawings are varied and yet consistent.’

Chair of the judges, Julia Eccleshare said: ‘Francesca’s subject in The Journey is war and its devastating effect on families caught up in it. Through words and pictures working perfectly together she tells her story in a way that will move all readers whatever their age. Over his long career, Klaus Flugge has always been ready to publish ground-breaking books, and many of those, though deemed challenging on publication - Not Now Bernard by David McKee for example - are today recognised as classics. It is fitting that the prize in his name is this year going to Francesca for The Journey and we are all excited to see what she does next.’

Mark Hendle, Managing Director of Andersen Press said: ‘Though only in its second year, the Klaus Flugge Prize already feels an established and important part of the children’s book world and we are delighted at the interest and support it has received. We were pleased too that this year’s shortlist was so international, with illustrators from three different continents represented. Klaus has always sought out talent from across the world, and that is part of what makes him such a successful and influential publisher.’


The Journey by Francesca Sanna

“I look up to the birds that seem to be following us. They are migrating just like us. And their journey, like ours, is very long, but they don’t have to cross any borders.”

Based on her interactions with people forced to seek a new home, and told from the perspective of a young child, Francesca Sanna has created a beautiful and sensitive book that is full of significance for our time.






'S PICTURE BOOKS TO CELEBRATE KINDNESS Given the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe and immigration debates in the U.S. and abroad, Sanna's story is well poised to spark necessary conversations about the costs of war.

Simultaneously heartbreaking, scary, and brightly hopeful, this timely tale with simply captivating artwork will spur little ones to ask questions that lack easy answers.

A necessary, artful, and searing story.

Gorgeously stylized, spare and powerful

The crisp blend of realistic and fantastical illustrations in Sanna's debut picture book impart as much content and emotional depth as its carefully woven text narrated by an anonymous child. [...] Based on a compilation of immigrant interviews, this selection is timely and beautiful, appropriate for use with young children given the continuing situation of refugees around the world made particularly visible in recent years.

Sanna's stylized illustrations, with gargantuan villains and swirling inky black, are both captivating and unsettling.

[Francesca Sanna's artwork] is both realistic and fantastical, done in a striking, graphic style. The Journey will be a wonderful teaching tool for those who are welcoming refugees into their community. For those who have escaped war, this book might prompt them to share their own stories.

The anguish of a family seeking refuge from war and trying to reach safer shores unfurls with heartbreaking directness in The Journey, a beautiful picture book by Francesca Sanna.

The Journey offers a beautiful message to readers -- young and old alike -- about the difficulties of finding a new home, and the value of welcoming strangers once they arrive.

A book that explores the heart wrenching need to abandon one's home amid war.

startling, poignant [...] It's a story that has lingered in my mind since I first read it, and I think it will be there a long while.

Through beautiful and powerful illustrations, The Journey vividly explores the universal story of all those who have had to leave behind the place and people they love.

[The Journey] is a brightly colored and beautifully illustrated tale on a dark and frightening topic. [...] The contrasting pictures and words are likely to inspire conversation, asking children and adults alike to discuss the topic of conflict and the plight of refugees the world over. I'd highly recommend the use of this book in an educational setting. Francesca Sanna is an illustrator to keep an eye on.

Haunting illustrations chronicle one refugee family's harrowing escape from the darkness of war. A tale of love, courage, and perseverance.

This powerful look at flight follows one family from their homeland. Traveling by bike, by car, even hidden in a truck bed, they eventually reach their destination only to face a looming guard and an insurmountable wall. While the time and place are never definite, the sadness and uncertainty are real.

The potent, matter-of-fact narrative becomes even more powerful set against striking illustrations that are stylized, beautiful, and harrowing. [...] Over and over the emotional weight of the story is conveyed through affecting, sometimes heart-rending images juxtaposed with the voice of innocence.

5 STARS [...] Hauntingly beautiful [...] emotionally charged [...] This is the perfect book to read to kids, to teach them about what is going on in the world today.

What a beautiful and haunting book. This story of a family that loses its home and father to war and must set out for a safer home might not be a soothing bedtime tale, but for a child curious about the word refugee, I can hardly think of a more delicate and powerful introduction.

[The Journey] is a powerful book that is sure to encourage conversations with young readers about the struggles children living in unsafe environments currently face.

This story was created to bring light to the recent refugee crisis in our world, and approaches the issue with incredible grace and metaphor. Debut Italian author/illustrator Francesca Sanna weaves a heartbreaking and hopeful tale with her beautiful words and illustrations.

An honest and engaging portrait of what a refugee family goes through to get to a safe place to live.

MUST-READ PICTURE BOOK OF THE YEAR [...] Not only is it an important work in children's literature, but it's an important story that needs to be read to people of all ages. [...] It's a story that serves as both a mirror and a window into an epic adventure of strength and fortitude unlike any picture book you may ever read.

A beautifully illustrated picture book that deftly explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war.

The story we read about in The Journey is universal and timely

Sanna's prose is lyrical yet sparse enough to emphasize the harsh and abrupt changes that the family experiences, and she has created a beautiful interplay of words and pictures. [...] All of the illustrations are beautifully layered and textured with color, pattern, and meaning. --Chickadee Lit

Francesca Sanna creates images that evoke the cost of war to all who are threatened by it. [...] Emotional, often stark, yet also hopeful, they will allow readers to share the emotions felt by the many refugee families looking for shelter and safety.

[The Journey] is a powerful look at the refugee experience

This beautifully universal refugee story is essential reading.

What a beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful, necessary book.

Chilling, haunting, and hopeful, this book will resonate with readers long after they've closed the cover.

I am so grateful for this candid, colorful and graceful telling of a family's fleeing of home that transcends any specific time in history or place on earth to welcome us all into its pages and its story of common courage and hope.

Sanna met refugee children and combined their stories to create this brilliant book told from a child's perspective - but with an awareness of an adult's perspective too. [...] The story has darkness, and fear, and worry, and shows the heartbreaking decisions families have to make when they're trying to stay alive. There are also moments of strength and hope.

It's not just children who require stories like these in order to better understand current events and the world around us. Politicians, and bigots, and other grownups with hardened hearts who've forgotten how to be human--these are the readers who need to read these books in order to remember that people are people, some things are universal, and also that books are amazing.

The Journey will make you appreciate your life and think about ways you can help others who are not as lucky.

About the Author

Francesca Sanna grew up on the Italian island of Sardinia. She first moved to Germany and then on to Switzerland to study illustration. In Summer 2014, Francesca attended the Summer Residency in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She completed a Masters of Art in Illustration at the Academy of Art and Design in Lucerne in June 2015. Francesca currently lives in Zurich where she works as a freelance illustrator.

To find out a little more about her work, we asked Lorena the following questions:

What inspires your work?

I like to listen to other people stories, compare my situation to theirs and trying to empathise with those stories. How it would be if I were in such a situation? How different would I be?

Since I left Italy to live in Switzerland, I am also inspired by a strange sense of nostalgia I feel every time I am back home to visit my family and enjoy the seaside.

Other than that when I look for inspiration I go to my favourite book shop or to a museums, and I really like to exchange ideas and thoughts with people from different background and countries.

Tell us a bit about your process….

I start with a personal feeling or situation. If there is something I am particularly passionate about or on the contrary very mad or worried about, If I want to discuss about a certain theme with other people all the time, that is a signal I need to work on that specific topic.
I like very much the first stages of my process: the research and then the storyboard. For the first one I look for questions and inputs, and then I go back to the white paper and start visualising a story sketching and sketching until I find something that work with the story.

For the illustrations I always try to cut something out from the page, to use the space that is not physically in the book: I think that hiding something from who is reading makes a picture book more interesting.

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Book Info


48 pages


Francesca Sanna
More books by Francesca Sanna

Author's Website


Flying Eye Books

Publication date

1st April 2016




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