Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour

Values: Friendship, Hope and Compassion.

I admit that I fell in love with this picture book the first time I read it. It was short listed for the UKLA Book Awards for 2020, and rightly so. The words and images work beautifully together to tell the tale of a little girl living in what the reader can assume is a refugee camp (although this is never explicitly confirmed): it is named 'The World of Tents'.

Lubna arrives at the camp with her father. We see none of the rest of her family, although references are made to her brothers, home and the war. Lubna's best friend is a pebble she finds and draws a smile on. It comes with her everywhere and she protects it. In turn, her father protects her. One day, a new little boy arrives in the camp. He is scared and doesn't speak. Lubna introduces him to Pebble and slowly Amir begins to speak. In time, Lubna and her father receive the news they will be leaving the camp on a boat. Lubna makes the difficult decision of leaving Pebble with Amir to keep him safe and happy.

This is a beautiful story of friendship. The way Lubna makes friends with an inanimate object is not uncommon with young children, and talking about favourite toys might be a non-threatening way into this book. Lubna also realises the greater need of her friend Amir, when she chooses to leave Pebble with him. Children are often so generous when sacrificing things for others and can recognise their emotions very well - a perfect example of this. Some question prompts that could be used for circle time or assembly or PSHE could be: What does being a friend mean? Should you always put your friends first? Are friendships always equal?

Compassion is another Value that shines through in this book. Lubna is compassionate about Pebble, and Daddy is compassionate about Lubna. Daddy finds a shoebox for Pebble when Lubna worries about Pebble being cold, and he does this through his compassion for his daughter. It is interesting to point out the compassion that Lubna feels for Amir when he first turns up, using Pebble as a way of breaking the ice before the two play games such as hide and seek together. The way the illustrator beautifully shows Middle Eastern inspired backdrops as a way of pinpointing Lubna's background (again, not stated, but we can infer) shows compassion in itself to the people who do really live in the refugee camps and may dream of being home in safer times. The compassion for Amir that Lubna shows means that he blossoms, and this is metaphorically depicted with roots at his feet that look like pomegranate trees. I love all of the vibrant imagery and how they add so much to the meaning of the words.

A further Value you could refer to using this book is Hope. Life for Lubna and Daddy before 'The World of Tents' is never talked about, but we can see hope for the future. Daddy protects Lubna and reassures her when she is feeling anxious. Lubna talks to Pebble and tells her stories, showing her own kind of positivity and hope.

This book gives children a starting point for understand others' lives that may be very different to their own. I believe it is an excellent book for inference, and I also think children of different year groups would get so much out of it, right up to Year 6. In fact, this may be a book KS2 classes would get more out of than KS1. It may not be totally authentic in that the author has not lived in refugee camps herself, but I don't think that stops the book highlighting Values in stories and evoking emotional responses.

One of my favourite books on my Values bookshelf, I really hope every school will own a copy in time. You can find one at Blackwell's, Oxford. Tibble and Grandpa was another book by the same author and illustrator pairing which is already on the blog - an equally emotional and inspiring book.

You can find other books with these Values on the blog too: