the ones that disappeared
About the book
Around the world, millions of people—including many children—are victims of human trafficking. These modern-day slaves often go unseen even in our own cities and towns, their voices silent and their stories untold. In this incredible book, Zana Fraillon imagines the story of three such children, Esra, Miran and Isa. The result is powerful, heartbreaking and unforgettable. This is a Skellig for this generation; beautiful, magical and with Zana Fraillon's incredible talent for combining important global issues with extraordinary storytelling.
About the author
Zana Fraillon was born in Melbourne, but spent her early childhood in San Francisco. Her 2016 novel The Bone Sparrow won the ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children, the Readings Young Adult Book Prize and the Amnesty CILIP Honour. It was also shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards, the Queensland Literary Awards, the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Gold Inky and the CILIP Carnegie Medal. She spent a year in China teaching English. When Zana isn't reading or writing, she likes to explore the museums and hidden passageways scattered across Melbourne.
Esra, Miran and Isa each bear the tattoo of the Snakeskin Gang on their wrists—a mark that identifies them as the property of the cruel and manipulative Orlando. They work for Orlando in The Jungle: the basement of a suburban house, where marijuana plants are cultivated for the drug trade. Theirs is a world of enslavement, deprivation, violence and constant fear. But despite their dire circumstance, the children never give up hope that one day they will follow the river and return home. Esra whispers her truth each night, Miran tells riddles and Tomorrow Stories and Isa holds dear the last words of his abbi: 'the tears of a bull will set you free'. During the aftermath of a fire in the basement, the children seize the opportunity to escape—but can they ever truly be free?
Skilfully told through three unique perspectives, the tale that Zana Fraillon weaves is harrowing and confronting, yet also poignant and thought provoking. Rich with symbolism and with a magical realism element threaded through the narrative arc, the work is much more than a study of the brutal world of human trafficking and child slavery. Rather, it is an ode to hope, the right to freedom and the resilience and resourcefulness of the human spirit. Motifs of the river, fox and white pigeon are particularly strong, as too is the exploration of the importance of story and the meaning of 'home'.
With prose that is lyrical, original and at times poetic, and with characters that leap from the page, the reader is lured into the disturbing world of these determined and fiercely loyal children and is rewarded with a story that is powerful and deeply affecting.