"Children are just children where ever they come from." - Kate Milner on My Name is Not Refugee | Weaving Pages: "Children are just children where ever they come from." - Kate Milner on My Name is Not Refugee

Monday, 3 July 2017

"Children are just children where ever they come from." - Kate Milner on My Name is Not Refugee

What was your main motivation to create a book about the refugee crisis? 
        At the end of 2015 I was so incensed by the tabloid view that the refugees coming across Europe from Syria were an invading army of zombies out to destroy us and our way of life. I asked myself if there was anything I could do to challenge this.“My Name Is Not Refugee”, was my answer. 

How did you start as an illustrator?
        I was one of those kids who never got the message that they were supposed to stop drawing once they got to senior school. I just kept going. I have done print making, pub signs painting, graphic design and editorial illustration but after raising my own children I returned to study on the superb MA in children's book illustration at Anglia Ruskin. “My Name Is Not Refugee” was basically conceived in the last few weeks of the course. 

As the book says, you very deservingly won the V&A Student Illustration Award. What process did you go through in deciding which illustrations best portrayed the story you wanted to tell?
        There really was no process. I worked out the idea for the book while driving home from Cambridge one night at the very end of November 2015.  I begged my husband to stop me working on it, I’d been chopping and changing from one project to another for months and to start another book just 12 days before the end of the course was monumentally stupid. I simply didn’t have the time. My husband didn’t put up much of a fight. I drew the three images which are, for me, the centre of the book; a boy faced with food he doesn’t recognise, a boy surrounded by language he doesn’t understand and a boy sleeping on a train station then I sent them off to the V&A in passing while working frantically on a  project I had no hope of finishing by the deadline. Obviously I am very pleased I did but there was very little calculation involved.  

What kind of response have you had so far to your book?

        Wonderful. I remember showing it to one of my tutors, (after the deadline), and realising that she was moved by it. I had found the right words and pictures to get my message across. The book insists that the little boy at it’s centre is a just a child like any other child and what ever the mayhem going on around him he is not to blame.

What actions do you think readers can take to help those who find themselves having to flee their homes like in your book?

        Ask yourself what you would want from people around you if your life had been totally disrupted through no fault of your own and you had landed in a new country where everything was strange. Nothing difficult or expensive I imagine; a smile at the school gate perhaps, or an invitation for your kid to join the football game.

How do you want your readers to feel after reading your book? Is there a certain message you hope stays with them?
        Children are just children where ever they come from. It shouldn’t need saying but in this new age of right wing nationalism where we seem to want to lock ourselves up behind high walls and divide the population of the world into us and them, it is worth repeating. 


Kate Milner is the author of the new picture book My Name is Not Refugee. Published by Barrington Stoke, it is a wonderfully moving tale depicting the very real trials and obstacles faced by a young boy and his mother as they leave their home country. To find out more about Kate and her book, take a look at her website at katemilner.com.


rita xo

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