The Stray and the Strangers

The Stray and the Strangers

by Steven Heighton
  • early-chapter-books
  • english-from-canada
  • fiction

A stray dog befriends a young boy in a refugee camp on a Greek island, in this heartfelt early chapter book from award-winning author Steven Heighton.

Based on a true story.

A scrawny and nervous stray on the island of Lesvos, Kanella sees a dinghy filled with weary, desperate strangers coming to shore. Other boats follow, laden with refugees who are homeless and hungry. Kanella knows what that is like, and she follows them as they are taken to a makeshift refugee camp in the parking lot of an abandoned nightclub. There she comes to trust a bearded man — an aid worker– who gives her shelter like the other refugees who line up for food and sleep on the ground. Kanella grows healthy and confident as she keeps watch over the people in her camp, including one little boy who arrives alone. She keeps him warm and calm, and protects him until his parents arrive and take him away. The camp is eventually dismantled, and Kanella finds herself homeless again. Until one night, huddled in the cold, she awakens to see two bright lights shining in her eyes — the headlights of a car. The bearded man has come back for her, and soon Kanella is on a journey, too, to a new home of her own.

Includes 9 black-and-white interior illustrations by Melissa Iwai.


Steven Heighton, author

Steven Heighton is an award-winning author of poetry, novels and short stories, and his work has been translated into ten languages. He is also a fiction reviewer for the New York Times Book Review. This is his first work for young readers. His memoir for adults based on his time in the refugee camp, REACHING MITHYMNA: AMONG THE VOLUNTEERS AND REFUGEES ON LESVOS, has just been shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction.

Melissa Iwai, illustrator

Melissa Iwai is the illustrator of more than 30 books, including NIGHT SHIFT DADDY by Eileen Spinelli.


  • “A tender and compassionate story” - School Library Journal
  • Based on a true story, a poignant, heartwarming introduction to the lives of refugees. - Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Groundwood Books



rights available: World

Additional Information

age range: 6 - 9

publication date: 09/29/2020

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book