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|Boy at the back of the class|
Author: Rauf, Onjali Q.
When quiet, nine-year-old Ahmet arrives in their classroom, a boy and his friends fail to draw him out but try a new plan after learning he is a Syrian refugee.
Kirkus Reviews (05/15/19)
School Library Journal (+) (06/01/19)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 06/01/2019 Gr 4–6—When a new boy named Ahmed joins Alexa's class at her London school, all of the students have questions: Why does the new boy never go to lunch or recess with the other kids, and why doesn't he talk to anyone? Everyone has different theories, but when Alexa and her friends are waiting after school to give Ahmed some fruit and other small gifts, they overhear two adults saying that Ahmed is a refugee and no one speaks his language. Gradually, as they befriend Ahmed and speak to him through the assistant the school hires to translate, they piece together his story: how he and his family escaped from the bombs in Syria, how his little sister drowned in the sea, and how he was separated from his parents and doesn't know how to find them again. When Alexa learns that the United Kingdom is about to close its borders to refugees, she and her friends embark on a bold and dangerous plan to persuade the Queen to intervene on Ahmed's behalf. Filled with engaging characters and a compelling plot, this moving novel adroitly portrays the plight of refugees from Syria and other parts of the world. In her quest to help Ahmed, Alexa is forced to confront not only the school bully but also the bigotry of her neighbor and other adults, some of whom imply that Alexa herself and her Indonesian mother don't belong. She also learns that her own grandmother was a refugee during World War II who not only evaded the Nazis but helped others escape as well. Information about refugees and ways to help are included, as well as discussion questions and an author's note explaining how the novel was inspired by the true story of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old refugee who drowned during his family's escape across the Aegean Sea. VERDICT This moving and timely debut novel tells an enlightening, empowering, and ultimately hopeful story about how compassion and a willingness to speak out can change the world.—Ashley Larsen, Pacifica Libraries, CA - Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 07/01/2019 An unnamed, ungendered nine-year-old’s world changes when a new boy joins the child's London classroom. The mysterious boy is soon revealed to be a Syrian refugee named Ahmet, separated from his family prior to finding shelter in the UK. The protagonist decides to befriend the reclusive boy, while others in the community are more hostile towards refugees. When it’s announced that the UK will close its borders to those seeking asylum, the protagonist fears that Ahmet will never be reunited with his family, and thus a plan is formed to help him. Raúf’s debut sets out to educate young readers on the refugee crisis, and in that sense it’s successful. However, as a result of this didactic approach, the elements of fiction fall flat, and the choice not to describe the protagonist keeps readers at arm’s length emotionally. Still, this book (which includes six back matter sections that educate further and prompt discussion) is a valuable resource for educators looking for an engaging way to introduce early middle-graders to the refugee crisis. - Copyright 2019 Booklist.