9781910829011The BBC’s Newsround has announced that ‘refugee’ has been deemed the Children’s Word of the Year. That comes after OUP analysed 120,000 stories written for BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition.

In October, we published a children’s book (7+) about a very unusual refugee – Angle the crocogator – who has to leave Nowhere to go to Elsewhere. It was one of our favourite books when we published it and it remains so.

One of the things that makes Hugh Holman‘s The Almost Animals special is that it’s not about people. It’s not even about animals, for the most part – aminals are the stars of this short novel.

If that seems a strange thing to say, let us explain.

Somehow it’s easier to see how people act when it’s not people who are doing the acting but they act like them nonetheless. Animals – or aminals – don’t have ethnicities or religions or political affiliations in that way that we people do. Taking those aspects away makes for less clutter. You could even say it removes the excuses for certain actions and reactions, making their basis so much starker.

That’s what The Almost Animals does: it lays bare irrational prejudices. What’s more, it does so without trying and with a wonderful, Gruffaloesque sense of humour.

The Almost Animals wasn’t written about the present refugee crisis. And perhaps that makes it all the more special. Such crises have occurred throughout history; it just so happens that we’re in the midst of one now. Nowhere and Elsewhere (and The Sometimes Pond – great name) may be this book’s settings, but Always would seem to be its relevance.

We’re particularly pleased that we’ll shortly be able to announce a major festival appearance by Hugh. More on that in a couple of weeks.