Zafir is 12 when the book opens and 14 when it closes. During that time his life and circumstances change dramatically. Once a privileged child of a well respected surgeon by the end of the novel things are hugely different (because, you know, I don't want to spoil it for you). The book is set in Syria in 2011- and accurately captures the events that unfolded during that time.
This book is well written, it feels contemporary and I know that young readers the world over will be able to relate to Zafir, his best friend Rami and Eleni. They are in essence 'ordinary kids', like those everywhere, who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.
This year the school I teach in is made up 50% of children whose mother tongue is not English. Reading it reminded me that I have no idea of the 'whats, hows and whys' people have encountered to find themselves in a new country. We ourselves are in a new country and our whys were so easy - it may not be true for the children I meet any day in the classroom or the people I pass on the street.
As the internet shrinks the world we are faced increasingly with the reality of those who are forced to see, flee and live through terrible, terrible things. If nothing else, this story brings light and understanding the things that have recently happened, and are still happening, in Syria.
I have already recommended this book widely as a text for using with older (11+) readers in schools, the writing, the issues and the ways in which social media is used would all be excellent discussion points for a group of readers. More than that though, I think this is a book we should all read - this is our world, these are the conflicts we inherit and, as much as we can, it is important for us to really understand what it is to be caught in what was your home and is now a war zone.
If we can truly empathise with people who haven't lived our journey then surely we will build more compassion and tolerance as we move forward.
One of the most important books I have read this year. I will be seeking out the others in the series too - even though it breaks my heart to read them.
Details: Allen and Unwin, Feb 2015 RRP$15.99, also available as an ebook.
love you more than a box of tissues and a book that makes you need them xxx