Two seals bask on a rock when a mother seal and her calf show up, in need of a new home. In a heart-rending turn of events, the mother and calf are berated, told there’s no room on the rock, despite there being a wealth of space. Told to go back their own rock, we see tumultuous, dangerous waters await the two… but is this the real story? The book invites readers to back to front for a different point of view, and a very different story emerges. The mother and calf flee their home, in search of a new place to live, where they are warmly welcomed by seals who wouldn’t dream of turning them away.
Room On Our Rock is a touching, clever look at empathy, compassion, and perspective, presenting two points of view to topical events: refugees and immigration. Fleeing catastrophe, a mother and child hope to find safe harbor elsewhere. Will they be welcomed and sheltered, or turned away? Where will this family find compassion?The story takes a human dilemma and uses animal migration to illustrate the two divided schools of thought. The sparse text brings readers into the issues at the heart of the refugee crisis, showing either – depending on which side of the story you’re reading – an astonishing lack of compassion or empathy, or a heart-stirring wealth of benevolence and welcome. The illustrations add to the well of emotion created by the text, giving life to the words by giving us churning waters and the expressive faces of a desperate mother and child. There is a motion to the artwork that creates an urgency in the reader: those seals have to get out of there!
I loved Room on Our Rock and plan to read this at my next storytime. My son loves the concept of the two-sided story, and has gone back to this book several times. This is a good book about an important topic that seems to be its own endangered species: empathy.
Originally published in Australia in 2018, Room on Our Rock has been shortlisted for the Australian Book Design Awards in the Picture Book category, and for the New Zealand Post Book Awards in the Best Picture Book category. You can find downloadable discussion questions and activities.