Year of Release: 2017
Author: Alan Gratz
Reading Age: 10-12 years
‘Refugee’ is an important and relevant book for middle school-age kids. While the book is suitable for middle schoolers, adults too stand to gain a lot from this riveting book. Inspired by historical events – this book has a combination of facts and fiction.
The author writes 3 separate stories about 3 different children in 3 different timelines- Josef ( 1939 – Jews escaping and running away from Nazi Germany ), Isabel (1994 – Cubans trying to escape from Cuba under Fidel Castro, trying to find a safer haven in Florida) and Mahmood ( 2015- trying to escape from war-torn Syria to Europe). Each story starts at a point where the trouble has already started in their respective countries, and families are already planning an escape. The story proceeds with the horrific experiences that each of the main characters and their families goes through as they take the dangerous path of leaving their home countries – the physical and emotional toll it takes on them, the huge financial and personal losses they incur, and how unfairly they get treated for no fault on their part. Each story ends differently. There is a beautiful, emotional end wherein the author brings it all together by connecting the three stories.
It is a thought-provoking narrative that makes one ponder how different wars and conflicts have affected people for ages. It was happening in the past, and it continues to happen today too. While they may fulfill political agendas, they certainly do no good to common people. Common people just get caught in between and are forced to endure suffering and pain. It is also an eye-opener for people who look at refugees with suspicion. The fact that refugees are normal people, who were leading a normal life in their countries – going to work, getting their children educated, and making the best of their lives, is conveyed in the book. The reality that they are victims and not the perpetrators of the crime also gets highlighted in the book. The thought that these people need better treatment from countries and authorities and more acceptance and empathy from people is conveyed through these heart-wrenching stories.
The author does complete justice to each character succeeding in making the reader feel one with them. It is an important, meaningful, and thought-provoking story that evokes empathy and compassion. A must-read. Highly recommended.
Check out my article about Projekt 1065, written by the same author.
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