My Name is not Refugee – Illustrated by Kate Milner

My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner is one of the five books on the shortlist for the 2018 Klaus Flugge Prize.

The Klaus Flugge Prize judges highlighted the way mood and emotion are beautifully portrayed in the book, commenting on the way Kate Milner chooses to use a limited palette but avoids making it too dark. They were impressed by how well she draws, and the way the book’s construction always leaves space for the reader.

Here Kate Milner chooses her favourite spread from My Name is Not Refugee

“The spread from the middle of the book with the caption We’ll sleep in some strange places was one of the first illustrations I made, and it is, perhaps, the most directly realistic. At the very end of 2015, when tens of thousands of refugees were walking from Syria into Europe, many of those who had got as far as Germany were sleeping in train stations. Of course, there were many worse things happening to refugees at that time, but there was something about having to lie down on the hard ground in a public place that struck me as easy to understand. I started to draw.

It’s an image of prone bodies, bin bags, rucksacks, coats, water bottles and shoes to which I have added the question: Where would you brush your teeth or change your pants? I was trying to get children to think about what it must feel like to be lying among snoring, farting strangers in a place full of unfamiliar noise and smells.

Looking at the image now it feels to me surprisingly cool, even bland. It doesn’t have a big emotional pull. It doesn’t bring you right close up to the discomfort, fear and exhaustion those people must have been feeling. The train station has disappeared from the final image so the figures are lying on whiteness which could be a school hall or a church or an airport. It has also remained fairly monochrome. The little splashes of colour are only there to make the boy who is the centre of the story stand out among the blues and greys. You would never know that I was in a real rage when I made it.

I was angry at the hysterical anti-immigration rhetoric that was trying to de-humanise refugees but none of that anger is apparent in the final image. Perhaps that is just as well. When I show this book to children in school this is one of the spreads that we spend a lot of time discussing. First we talk about what it must feel like to be that child in that situation, then we talk about the German commuter who finds themselves stepping over prone bodies as they start their journey to work. Might they be annoyed? Is it ok that they are annoyed? A teacher told me recently that before her class of 7 and 8 year olds started to look at my book only one of them knew what the word 'refugee' meant. Children don’t need rage and rhetoric, mine or the Daily Mail’s. What they need is information.”

Kate Milner studied Illustration at Central St Martin's before completing the MA in Children's Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University. Her work has been published in magazines and her illustrations and prints have been shown in London galleries and national touring exhibitions. Kate won the V&A Student Illustration Award in 2016. My Name is Not Refugee is published by Barrington Stoke, the editor is Emma Hargrave, and the art editor is Julie-Ann Murray.

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The Klaus Flugge Prize is funded personally by Klaus Flugge and run independently of Andersen Press.

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