What You Need to Be Warm

Image of What You Need to Be Warm
Release Date: 
October 31, 2023
Quill Tree Books
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Neil Gaiman wrote a poem based on a film he made about staying warm, with ideas from folks on social media, their memories of being warm. He calls the poem a long green scarf.

Neil Gaiman has given the book text to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. A number of artists (12) have donated a spread of art (two pages) for the organization. Every winter the UNHCR “undertakes a massive operation to provide cash assistance and essentials like clothes, thermal blankets, heaters and fuel” to the many displaced families across the world. They live in “makeshift shelters or camps . . . and face freezing temperatures and severe weather conditions.”

The poem starts with hot food, “a baked potato on a winter’s night to wrap your hands around or burn your mouth.” The art is orange, black, gray and white. The second pages are about walking in the snow, but having a “smile, touch trust.”

Then it’s on to radiators, beds, blankets, “just one more minute snuggled here before you face the chill. Just one.” The art shows a mom at the attic window, a child in bed under a quilt, a dog and cat, and a strung-up curtain.

Striking art is on the page about the infant. It “sleeps between us, a tumble of dogs, a kindle of cats, and kittens.” All of the animals are surrounded by a protecting dragon, according to the artist, Marie-Alice Harel. It’s all black, gray, and white except for an orange branch held by a dove in the center of the circle, and the orange text.

Warm things to drink appear on the next spread. A kettle, family, hot choices, “you take the mug and start to thaw.” A dark spread shows a small family on a gray beach, the orange fire between them. On the next pages, people are shown in a refugee camp. “Sometimes it only takes a stranger, in a dark place, to hold out a badly knitted scarf. To offer a kind word.”

The last page of the poem says it all. “You have the right to be here.”

Neil Gaiman is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. This poem is his gift to refugees everywhere. Buying the book helps to fund aid to refugees through UNHCR.

The artists are: Yuliya Gwilym, Nadine Kaadan, Pam Smy, Daniel Egnéus, Beth Suzanna, Marie-Alice Harel, Petr Horácek, Chriss Riddell, Bagram Ibatoulline, Benji Davies, Magid Adin, and Richard Jones.