book cover Refugees
by David Miller

Picture book | 32 pp | Years 58

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[ Overview | Author profile | Useful websites | Focus questions ]


Refugees relates the adventures of pair of wild blue-billed ducks whose home is destroyed when their swamp is dug up and they have to find a safe place to live. The difficult and dangerous journey they undertake seems doomed to failure as they try unsuccessfully to settle in different environments, including an ocean, a busy river port and a swamp where duck shooting is allowed. They are close to exhaustion when the intervention of an unknown person changes their fate.

David Miller's colourful and highly detailed paper sculptures add a three-dimensional quality to the story that captures the reader's interest and expands on the text. The scenes are presented from different perspectives that draw the viewer into the world as the ducks see it. Although the language and illustrations in the book are easy for young readers to engage with, there are hidden depths that will intrigue and challenge older readers. Refugees was named an Honour book in the Children Book Council of Australia's Picture Book of the Year award in 2005.

Author profile

David Miller runs his own graphic design and illustration studio. In creating his paper sculptures, David uses coloured paper with paint, pencils and oil pastels and shapes the paper with scissors and scalpel, and by bending, folding and gluing. Other books David has written and illustrated include What's for Lunch, Carousel, Where There's Smoke... and Just Like You and Me. David has three grown up children and grandchildren.

Useful websites

Focus questions

Before reading the book

  • Examine the front cover of the book. What does the word 'refugees' mean? What types of circumstances may make a person a refugee? In what ways could ducks become refugees? What do you think this refugee story will be about?
  • Read the blurb on the back cover and identify significant words that help define the context of this story. Why has the author described the ducks as refugees? What reasons are given in the blurb? How does this fit with your idea of the circumstances that result in refugees? Discuss how this information informs the reader about the context of the story.
  • Look closely at the illustrations on the front and back covers. How do you think they have been created? What effects have been achieved? How does David Miller give the reader clues about the fate of the ducks?

During and after reading the book

  • Which parts of the story are not told in words? How does the author provide clues about the events through the illustrations?
  • How would you describe the ducks' changing circumstances from the beginning of the book to the end? Can you identify possible groups, organisations or individuals who may have been responsible at different stages?
  • Do you think the ducks were lucky to survive? What sort of responsibilities do you think the person who rescued them would have?
  • What aspects of the book give us clues to David Miller's views on the destruction of habitats?
  • How do you think the ducks' story relates to human refugees?

© Curriculum Corporation 2006