Books·Canadian

Mustafa

This illustrated children's book tells the story of a young child coming to feel at home in a new country.

Marie-Louise Gay

Mustafa and his family traveled a long way to reach their new home. Some nights Mustafa dreams about the country he used to live in, and he wakes up not knowing where he is. Then his mother takes him out to the balcony to see the moon — the same moon as in their old country. In the park, Mustafa sees ants and caterpillars and bees — they are the same, too. He encounters a "girl-with-a-cat," who says something in a language that he can't understand. He watches an old lady feeding birds and other children playing, but he is always looking in from the outside and he feels that he is invisible. But one day, the girl-with-the-cat beckons to him, and Mustafa begins to become part of his new world.

Marie-Louise Gay's remarkable ability to write and illustrate from the perspective of a young child is movingly exhibited in this gentle, thoughtful story about coming to feel at home in a new country. (From Groundwood Books)

From the book

Excerpted from Mustafa, copyright © 2018 by Marie-Louise Gay. Reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books Ltd., Toronto. (Groundwood Books)
Excerpted from Mustafa, copyright © 2018 by Marie-Louise Gay. Reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books Ltd., Toronto. (Groundwood Books)

Why Marie-Louise Gay wrote Mustafa

"This book is special because it is based on something real. Four years ago, I was travelling in Europe and I was hearing a lot about the migrants or refugees that were crossing Croatia and Serbia by bus, truck or train. While in Belgrade to see a friend, I could see that some parts of the city were filled with refugees waiting for the next leg of their journey. Large groups of families were staying in parks in makeshift tents and camps. I could see that they were weary and clearly had traveled far. 

This book is special because it is based on something real.- Marie-Louise Gay

"What stayed with me seeing this situation was the resilience of the kids that were there. There were all these young kids playing around in the grass. I was thinking of these kids, who were on the cusp of a new life. Unlike their parents, they didn't the same notion of what that means to leave a place to go to a new place. But what they do have is their curiosity and their ability to thrive in a new environment. And so the idea for Mustafa sprang from this."

Read more in Marie-Louise Gay's interview with CBC Books.

Marie-Louise Gay reads from Mustafa

Other books by Marie-Louise Gay

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