Hi all, I hope you are all having a good month so far. Down here in New Zealand summer is just slowing down and autumn is around the corner. I hope the selection of titles this month have provided a glimpse into a culture that is different to yours. Everyday in my line of work I see new faces and hear languages I haven’t heard before spoken by both adults and children. It makes my heart sing to embrace them all into the community I serve. This special post is my way of honouring those families I help, sometimes on a daily basis.
This first title is a lovely little story about how one little girl deals with her worries over her parents divorce. Sita Brahmachari deftly weaves strands of themes of friendship and anxiety in this dyslexia-friendly read. This is a good story for young readers to learn about the lives of refugees.
Title: Worry Angels
Author: Sita Brahmachari
Illustrator: Jane Roy
Genre: Fiction – contemporary
Publication details: Barrington Stoke Ltd; Edinburgh, 2017
What this book is about: Amy-May knows about webs of worries – so many people she meets are caught in them, from her own artist dad to newly arrived refugees Rima and her family. By being brave enough to open up her worry box, Amy-May helps all those around her find a way forward.
My review: Such a lovely story!! Featuring themes of divorce, anxiety and friendship, this lovely read filled my heart with compassion. The adorable illustrations by Jane Roy complement the story making it easier for readers with learning difficulties. With slightly larger text, this dyslexia-friendly read tells the story of young Amy-May and her worries. She worries over her parents divorce and settling into a new school. It also touches on the subject of refugees and displacement. I liked the inclusion of Arabic terms as Amy May and Grace learn the language to make the Syrian family feel at ease. A good read to learn about the lives of displaced people around the world and what they endure.
My rating: 4½⭐
This next book is a lovely, lyrical read of a young girl’s relocation to America told in entirely free verse.
Title: Other words for home
Author: Jasmine Warga
Genre: Fiction – contemporary (Epistolary)
Publication details: Balzer + Bray; NY, 2019
What this book is about: Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. Starting school in America was challenging as well as being given the label of “Middle Eastern”, an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises – there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.
My review: A lovely, lyrical read!! Told entirely in free verse, Warga has brought to life young Jude’s story. We see her fears, hopes and dreams along with her struggles with both her own identity and the way other people see her. My heart felt heavy as I read this because I know that thousands of people didn’t make it to safety like Jude and her mother. I loved the description of classroom settings and the friendships Jude forms. An excellent and relevant story for today!!
My rating: 5 ⭐
This next book is a graphic novel. Be warned readers, make sure you have plenty of tissues handy as the next reviews include some sad scenes. And no, I won’t be giving any other details!
Authors: Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin
Illustrator: Giovanni Rigano
Genre: Fiction – contemporary (Graphic novel)
Publication details: Hodder Children’s Books; UK, 2017
What this book is about: Ebo is alone. His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too. Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli. And finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds to his hope for a new life. From the best-selling team behind The Artemis Fowl graphic novels comes this powerful and timely story told with humour and compassion.
My review: This was such a powerful story!! I cried during and after I’d finished it. They say a picture tells a thousand words; but the images created here told of millions more. I had no idea people from West Africa had travelled across the Sahara to get to places like Tripoli in Libya to cross the Mediterranean Sea bound for Europe. Although this story wasn’t real, I felt as if every element had a ring of truth to it. Eoin Colfer and his team have created a masterpiece in this book. The images felt so real and filled with emotion. Every aspect was captured expertly and shown in such a way that children could grasp the horror of it all. A powerful read!! Must have some adult supervision as some images might be disturbing for younger readers.
My rating: 4½⭐
This next two reads take you from one extreme of the journey refugees and displaced people take to another. Both are, in my opinion, written by some exceptional authors.
Title: Escape from Aleppo
Author: N. H. Senzai
Genre: Fiction – contemporary
Publication details: Paula Wiseman Books; NY, 2018
What this book is about: It is December 1917, 2010: Nadia’s twelfth birthday and the beginning of the Arab Spring. Soon anti-government protests erupt across the Middle East and, one by one, countries are thrown into turmoil. As civil war flares in Syria and bombs fall across Nadia’s home city of Aleppo, her family decides to flee. Inspired by current events, this novel sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that has led to an international refugee crisis, and tells the story of one girl’s journey to safety.
My review: I wrote this review with mixed feelings coursing through my head. Sadness at Nadia’s situation, lost and alone; anger towards those that attack her homeland; and hope that the young people of Syria will have some kind of future despite being displaced from their homes. N. H. Senzai has worked tirelessly in depicting this very current and real war into the story you see before you. From the historical stories that shaped the thousands of years of culture and Syrian heritage to the sequence of events that escalated the violence throughout Syria we see hear of now. Young Nadia’s tale is one that, I believe, is the tale of many survivors. Maybe not exactly the same, but the fears and challenges they endured to escape their war-torn cities would be similar. Through Nadia’s eyes I learned so much I didn’t know of this reality that hundreds endured. N. H. Senzai’s exquisite writing gave some amazing characters, memorable dialogue and the descriptions are moving!! Some scenes are a bit graphic so I would recommend this for older readers.
My rating: 4 ⭐
Title: The Bone Sparrow
Author: Zana Fraillon
Genre: Fiction – contemporary
Publication details: Lothian Children’s Books; Australia, 2016
What this book is about: Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian immigration detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland. Life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. Then one night Jimmie arrives, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, carrying a notebook written by the mother she lost. Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.
My review: What a poignant and heart-rending story this was!! I somehow ploughed through despite the all too familiar passages of injustice and inequality described. Life inside the detention centre was bleak, in my opinion, no place for children. To hear of people being numbered like animals, given rations of food and clothing, unsanitary living conditions and no access to an education for children, just stabbed me in the chest. The few elements I did like reading were the stories the two friends shared as they read Jimmie’s mother’s book and the descriptions of their blossoming friendship. Some scenes towards the end were a bit too gruesome for me but I liked how there was some kind of resolution. A good read. A read that all kids should try to understand about the refugees who have no choice to leave their homelands in hopes of a better future. Young Subhi being a Rohingya Muslim taught me their culture and I thank Zana Fraillon for writing this tale. I like her dedication above the Publisher information: “To those who refuse to be blinded by the glare or defined by the bush, who are brave enough to question, curious enough to explore. To those who will not forget. You will make a difference. And to the rest of us, so that we may learn how.” Another better read for older kids.
My rating: 4 ⭐
This last title is an adult biography made up of accounts given by several young girls and women, compiled by activist Malala Yousafzai. It is my sincere wish that all women out there have a read of this title.
Title: We are displaced: my journey and stories from refugee girls around the world
Authors: Malala Yousafzai with Liz Welch
Genre: Biography – Adult
Publication details: Weidenfield & Nicolson; London, 2019
What this book is about: Malala Yousafzai’s experiences visiting refugee camps caused her to reconsider her own displacement – first as an Internally Displaced Person when she was a young child in Pakistan, and then as an international activist who could travel anywhere in the world, except to the home she loved. In We Are Displaced, Malala explores her own story of adjusting to a new life while longing for home and shares the personal stories of some of the incredible girls she has met on her various journeys – girls who have lost their community, relatives, and often the only world they’ve ever known. In a time of immigration crisis, war and border conflicts, We are displaced is an important reminder that every single one of the 68.5 million currently displaced is a person – often a young person – with hopes and dreams, and that everyone deserves universal human rights and a safe home.
My review: Oh what a ride this was!! Reading Malala’s story again was very emotional for me but then as I read the other girls’ stories, the waterworks started. Every single story made me cry,and moved me in ways I couldn’t imagine!! In the first part we hear Malala’s story again and her consequent plans to ‘continue fighting for girls’ rights to an education’. The second part we read of stories of a few young girls and women Malala had met on her travels around the world. All of these voices and their stories are truly inspirational ones! Such an awesome read!! Please be warned that some stories include some graphic and disturbing content.
My rating: 5 ⭐
I hope you all manage to find and read these stories and learn as much as I did about this global issue. I found myself extremely ignorant before I had encountered these books and the subsequent sites it led me to. If anyone knows of anymore tween reads on this theme please let me know.