The Ones That Disappeared

Zana Fraillon

The Ones That Disappeared
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The Ones That Disappeared

Zana Fraillon

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.

Esra, Miran and Isa work for the Snakeskin gang, tending to plants in the dark and airless basement of a house they are not allowed to leave. They’ve been told that they belong to the Snakeskins, but Esra knows that she belongs to no one - and she is determined to find freedom. This is a Skellig for this generation; beautiful, magical and with Zana Fraillon’s incredible talent for combining important global issues with extraordinary storytelling.


Esra is 11 years old and she is kept in a basement with Miran, also 11 and Isa, who is only 7. All three children bear the tattoo of their owner, Orlando of the Snakeskin Gang, a hideously cruel man who does not hesitate to beat one of them bloody to punish another. All three children work for their own release, knowing the longer they stay, the more food they eat (not that they are given much), the bigger their debt to Orlando – and the slimmer their chance of ever buying themselves back from him gets.

On their second year of slavery, and day 92 in the basement, a fire allows the children the chance to escape. Miran is caught by the police and is kept in protective custody in hospital while he recovers, but Esra and Isa escape. Once safe from Orlando and the police Esra is determined to find Miran and live their promised future of freedom. It’s not long until they are discovered by Skeet, an incorrigibly cheerful and chatty boy who insists on helping them find their friend.

The Ones That Disappeared is like all those great, classic children’s adventure stories. You know, the ones you read growing up, about children escaping from Nazis during World War II, or children surviving plane crashes and battling the wilderness on their own. As a child, you read these stories with bated breath, you are on this journey with the children in the story, but you feel safe in your bedroom knowing the bad stuff existed only in the past and in different lands. The difference with The Ones That Disappeared is that the bad stuff is happening now, in houses not dissimilar to your own. But because of this, The Ones That Disappeared offers something those other books couldn’t. It offers hope. It tells readers that you can do something, even if that something is shouting and shouting, until people listen to you just to make you shut up. If Esra can do it, so can we. Recommended for ages 12+.

Dani Solomon is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Kids.

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