Does this blog title sum it up for you? Well…it should!
This totally readable new book (just published in August) was one I absolutely could not put down. I read it in one sitting (yes, I already know that this is something that writers do not like) and I was absolutely glued until the very end.
Refugee by Alan Gratz is a three story narrative which chronicles the epic journey of three refugee protagonists and their families. The first story features Joseph and his father, mother and younger sister who escape the Nazi occupation of Germany by taking the ill fated St. Louis ship across the sea to Cuba in 1938. The second story is that of Isobel who flees Cuba in the mid-nineties in hope of a better life in the US. The third story is of Mahmoud, who escapes civil war in Syria in 2015 for a better life in Germany.
All three stories are loosely based on true events and all three provide gut churning accounts of what it means to be displaced from a home, to loose all that you have, to loose family and to loose identity. All three stories feature the promise of “tomorrow,” whether this is in the form of hope for a better future or the never ending promise that there will be a boat “tomorrow,” or a disembarkment “tomorrow” or a “we’ll get there – tomorrow.”
The book is aimed at ages 10+ and is honestly a brilliant text to introduce very difficult and yet very important topics to middle schoolers and high schoolers. The book gives a fantastic sense of personability, bringing to life the very telling and oft-tragic stories of different refugees through the world and throughout time. The three stories also interlink in a well-rounded way for this age group. The details and intricacies of each story may be slightly simplistic for adult readers; certainly the stories are spared the grueling details of harrowing experiences that have happened in real life for many people. However, there are enough details to convey the point and certainly enough to spark a conversation amongst young readers about the plight of refugees as people not just numbers or news articles.
Readers will appreciate the fine line between the refugees in this book and those of us fortunate enough to never experience the journeys featured here. Gratz’s writing is sympathetic but not patronizing; he has created a book that will no doubt be remembered and used throughout classrooms, homes and libraries alike.
A 5/5 and a stunning read for young adults and adults too.