Morten Dürr,Lars Horneman

University of Queensland Press
1 October 2018


Morten Dürr,Lars Horneman

A deeply moving and award-winning graphic novel about a young Syrian refugee.

Zenobia was once a great warrior queen of Syria whose reign reached from Egypt to Turkey. She was courageous. No one gave her orders. Once she even went to war against the emperor of Rome.

When things feel overwhelming for Amina, her mother reminds her to think of Zenobia and be strong. Amina is a Syrian girl caught up in a war that reaches her village. To escape the war she boards a small boat crammed with other refugees. The boat is rickety and the turbulent seas send Amina overboard. In the dark water Amina remembers playing hide and seek with her mother and making dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and the journey she had to undertake with her uncle to escape. And she thinks of the brave warrior Zenobia.

Zenobia is a heartbreaking and all-too-real story of one child’s experience of war. Told with great sensitivity in few words and almost exclusively with pictures, Zenobia is a story for children and adults.


This heartbreaking Danish graphic novel calls our attention to the thousands of people who each year go missing or die during migration, particularly those deaths that happen at sea. Millions of Syrians have fled their country since the onset of war and this is the story of Amina. Her parents gone, she starts a journey. A crowded boat capsizes and as she falls into the deep blue ocean Amina thinks of hide and seek, and of cooking dolmas with her mother. She also thinks of Zenobia, the ancient queen of Syria, a warrior of inspiring strength.

Readers are given plenty of space to reflect on the heavy events of this book. The text is very sparse; wordless pages and large panels highlight the vastness of the sea and the journey. It’s a powerful, vividly illustrated book and will be useful in a classroom or at home as a starting point for discussion about the Syrian refugee crisis.

Kim Gruschow is the children’s book buyer at Readings St Kilda.

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