Tag Archives: refugees

A book that touched my heart

2 Oct

I’ve been a little lax about writing over the last few months. I’ve lost a little of my mojo. but I read a book recently that I can’t stop thinking about, and I really want to write about it. It’s called The Boy at the Back of the Class  and it is Onjali Q. Raúf’s debut novel.

It’s not the deepest book on it’s subject (refugees, friendship) but the voice of the narrator is so heart-felt and beautiful that I couldn’t stop reading.

One of the things that bothered me at first was that I couldn’t tell if the narrator was male or female. As I moved through the book, it mattered less and less, so that, by the end, when the protagonist’s name and gender become evident, it is immaterial. In the same way that the narrator just wants to be friends with the boy, regardless of where he came from, I loved this character and wanted to be their teacher, regardless of gender. Because this kid is every teacher’s dream student, and yet their voice and way of thinking feels authentically nine. (she how I am also not revealing the name or gender?)

There is a scene in the book where our protagonist makes a journey to Buckingham Palace that had me thinking about The BFG. I hope both you and Queen Elizabeth read this lovely book. If the characters were a little older, I’d consider this as a class read aloud.

51bXpHeSDpL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

Publisher’s Summary: Told with humor and heart, The Boy at the Back of the Class offers a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

There used to be an empty chair at the back of Mrs. Khan’s classroom, but on the third Tuesday of the school year a new kid fills it: nine-year-old Ahmet, a Syrian refugee.

The whole class is curious about this new boy–he doesn’t seem to smile, and he doesn’t talk much. But after learning that Ahmet fled a Very Real War and was separated from his family along the way, a determined group of his classmates bands together to concoct the Greatest Idea in the World–a magnificent plan to reunite Ahmet with his loved ones.

This accessible, kid-friendly story about the refugee crisis highlights the community-changing potential of standing as an ally and reminds readers that everyone deserves a place to call home.

Reading poetry with Lucy

1 Aug

At some point every day, Lucy and I take a walk and she lays down on the sidewalk to bask in the sun.

CF5C286B-90DA-493C-9EF9-8E0E45C37E6D

It can get a little annoying, but I have learned to anticipate her need for warmth. Armed with treats, I lure her to my front stoop, pull out a lawn chair and read while Lucy takes her sun bath. I choose my books carefully because, although she loves the warmth, Lucy can only take so much heat. Her sunbath last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, so I like a book I can pick up and put down. Lately, it has been poetry. Each poem is like a short story and I can read one or several, waiting for Lucy to get her fill of the sun.

This week, I’ve been reading Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. I am already thinking about how I can use it in my classroom. It is that excellent!

9781609809072-f_feature-a2005fc93fb5d1d12ac70e2dffaa339b

Publisher’s Summary: With authenticity, integrity, and insight, this collection of poems addresses the many issues confronting first- and second- generation young adult immigrants and refugees, such as cultural and language differences, homesickness, social exclusion, human rights, racism, stereotyping, and questions of identity. Poems by Elizabeth Acevedo, Erika L. Sánchez, Samira Ahmed, Chen Chen, Ocean Vuong, Fatimah Asghar, Carlos Andrés Gómez, Bao Phi, Kaveh Akbar, Hala Alyan, and Ada Limón, among others, encourage readers to honor their roots as well as explore new paths, offering empathy and hope for those who are struggling to overcome discrimination. Many of the struggles immigrant and refugee teens face head-on are also experienced by young people everywhere as they contend with isolation, self-doubt, confusion, and emotional dislocation.

Ink Knows No Borders is the first book of its kind and features 64 poems and a foreword by poet Javier Zamora, who crossed the border, unaccompanied, at the age of nine, and an afterword by Emtithal Mahmoud, World Poetry Slam Champion and Honorary Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Brief biographies of the poets are included, as well. It’s a hopeful, beautiful, and meaningful book for any reader.

What is it about YA historical fiction?

13 May

There is a belief in publishing that historical fiction doesn’t sell in YA. When I look at my classroom library, I can see that my historical fiction section clearly has significantly more middle grade then YA.

Over the weekend, I finished Someday We will Fly  by Rachel DeWoskin, a work of YA historical fiction that shed light on a little know piece of history.

81jhUwOloiL

I knew that many people had fled Russia during the Revolution, travelling through Siberia to take refuge in China. Shanghai became a refuge for many from Europe and that’s what this story is about.

Why didn’t I know about the Jews who fled to Japanese occupied Shanghai? Or the way in which the Japanese and Germans worked to ghettoize them after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

I will say that I was slow to warm up to this book. The beginning is a lot of telling, rather than showing what is going on. I can see that it built background and helped get us and the characters to Shanghai, where the bulk of the story takes place, but it was a bit of a slog. If I hadn’t been interested in the topic, I don’t know that I would have persevered to the end.

Publisher’s Summary:

Strangers in a strange land

26 Nov

I didn’t do a Thanksgiving post. I am fortunate to have many things for which I am thankful and the Thanksgiving Break was one of them. I feel refreshed and ready for the next month of school.

Over the five-day break from school, I read a couple of books. One that really moved me, and reminded me of how fortunate I am, was Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh.

91w4tCPFN1L

Publisher’s Summary: Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stuck in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Aleppo, Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to the shores of Europe. Now Ahmed’s struggling to get by on his own, but with no one left to trust and nowhere to go, he’s starting to lose hope.

Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy from Washington, D.C. Lonely and homesick, Max is struggling at his new school and just can’t seem to do anything right. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed’s lives collide and a friendship begins to grow. Together, Max and Ahmed will defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave and how hope can change your destiny.

If I didn’t already have a read aloud with a female protagonist lined up, I’d choose this for my next read aloud. It really speaks to the idea that individuals can’t necessarily change the world, but we can change the world for one person. It goes back, too, to the idea I shared a the beginning of summer, that we are saved by saving others.

Max is pretty miserable in Brussels, but, once he befriends Ahmed, his life turns around. He has found a purpose and, in doing so, has found a place in his strange new world. If you are looking for a great gift book for the holidays for a reader in grades 4-7, consider Nowhere Boy. But read it before you give it, so that you, and the recipient can have a marvelous book discussion.

 

Timely & powerful

9 Oct

Thanks to everyone who helped me complete the second grant for books for my Mock Newbery Club. This second grant will help me get titles that were published recently. One of those is Alan Gratz’s Refugee.

33118312

It intertwines the stories of three refugees children.

From the author’s website:

Josef is a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…

Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America…

Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe…

All three young people will go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers–from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But for each of them, there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, surprising connections will tie their stories together in the end.

This one will give middle grade readers insight into the refugee crisis they see in the news today, and how that connects to refugee crises of the past. We talk a lot about how reading creates empathy. This novel will soften the hearts of anyone interested in reading about global issues.

Chapters alternate between the three stories, and Gratz is a master of knowing just where to stop to keep you reading.

Canada Reads 2016

25 Apr

images

Every year since 2002, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation organizes Canada Reads, a ‘battle of the books” style competition to select a book everyone should read. This year’s winner is The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.

Unknown

Publisher’s Summary: Keita Ali is on the run.

Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita’s ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches—until Keita is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family’s survival.

He signs on with notorious marathon agent Anton Hamm, but when Keita fails to place among the top finishers in his first race, he escapes into Freedom State—a wealthy island nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown. Keita can stay safe only if he keeps moving and eludes Hamm and the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he would face almost certain death.

This is the new underground: a place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be “illegal” live below the radar of the police and government officials. As Keita surfaces from time to time to earn cash prizes by running local road races, he has to assess whether the people he meets are friends or enemies: John Falconer, a gifted student struggling to escape the limits of his AfricTown upbringing; Ivernia Beech, a spirited old woman at risk of being forced into an assisted living facility; Rocco Calder, a recreational marathoner and the immigration minister; Lula DiStefano, self-declared queen of AfricTown and madam of the community’s infamous brothel; and Viola Hill, a reporter who is investigating the lengths to which her government will go to stop illegal immigration.

Keita’s very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister’s life, too.

Fast moving and compelling, The Illegal casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees struggling to survive in a nation that does not want them. Hill’s depiction of life on the borderlands of society urges us to consider the plight of the unseen and the forgotten who live among us.

Set in 2018 in fictional countries, The Illegal is timely, but tells a story as old as time. The writing is fast paced, just like Keita’s running pace, and you can’t help but like him. Although he is the main character, the stories of several other characters help tell Keita’s story and add to to the complexity of the novel. A few things I expected to happen did, but there were a few surprises, too.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

The Fat Squirrel Speaks

Knitting, spinning, and assorted awesomeness.

Global Yell Blog

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Jone Rush MacCulloch

Deo Writer: Musings to Spark the Spirit

Klickitat St. Readers

Just another WordPress.com site

Readerbuzz

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

PLUMDOG BLOG

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Gail Carriger

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Kate Messner

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Cybils Awards

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Someday My Printz Will Come

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

andrea gillespie

Inquiring My Way Forward

Kirby's Lane: A Place for Readers and Writers

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The Horn Book

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The History Girls

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

%d bloggers like this: