This month, my book recommendation for the middle grade category is, The Boy at the Back of the Class, by Onjali Q.Rauf.
Told from the point of view of nine year old Alexa, this book looks at the refugee crisis as seen through a child’s eyes.
For Alexa and her friends, the arrival of a new boy in their class is rather exciting. They want to get to know him and make friends, but it doesn’t seem that simple. Ahmet can’t speak English and he spends most breaktimes indoors with a special teacher.
The wonderful thing about children though, is they won’t let a little thing like language get in the way of friendship, and the children in this story are no different. They bring Ahmet daily gifts of sweets and smiles, with the gestures being enough to win him over.
As Ahmet settles into life in a London school and begins to learn a few words in English, he tells the children about his family and the home they fled. Ahmet is a Syrian refugee and his journey from the war torn country was fraught with dangers the children could only dream about. When they discover Ahmet made it to England but without his family, they become determined to help him find them.
To us, what would be a complicated matter of asylum and politics, to the children, is as simple as reuniting a young boy with his parents. It is the innocence of this gesture that makes this story so heartwarming.
I think every young child should read this story. Despite the seriousness of the subject, the book is written in a light hearted way, with a real sense of adventure. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry, but it truly highlights a desperate cause.
If you would like to read my book recommendation for January, please see my previous post. Also, if you have any middle grade book recommendations of your own, I would love to hear them.