My job as a mom is not just about caring for my child, making sure they eat their veggies and do their homework. Sure, cleanliness and proper nutrition are important – but the ultimate goal of any mom is to help our children grow into adults. What the world needs now is adults with empathy and compassion. But how do we teach our children to put themselves in the shoes of others? How do we teach them to understand the bigger picture? You see where I’m going right? Books have the unique ability to transport our children into uncomfortable and scary situations when they are still perfectly safe at home. Books like Refugee by Alan Gratz are crucial to raising kids with open minds and open hearts.** This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through a link, we make a small commission.
Alan Gratz’s Refugee is three tales in one, told in alternating chapters by three narrators. The stories feature Josef, a Jewish refugee fleeing WWII Germany, Isabel is a Cuban girl on her way to Miami in 1994 and Mahmoud is a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Germany in 2015. The chapters rotate between the three characters and their stories do connect at the end in a meaningful and moving way. The characters are all about 13 years old but shoulder burdens that would be hard for an adult to handle. Gratz accurately portrays each child’s struggle with both grace and clarity – not shying away from difficult emotions and even death.
The timeliness of this book is obvious. Syria is still in crisis, refugees are still seeking asylum right now. But this isn’t an isolated incident but one that happens over and over again throughout history. The only way to move forward is to learn from our past and not make the same mistakes. Spoiler alert: As with most of the Jewish people who ended up in concentration camps, Josef dies. It is mentioned, not detailed. When it comes up, it is in a moment of hope – but it is still something to be aware of when your child reads this story.
I really hope you will give this poignant read a chance. It is worth your time and tears. Also – a huge shout out to The Diverse Book Club Madeleine from Top Shelf Text and it’s fearless leader, for drawing my attention to this book in the first place. Madeleine will be doing a guest post about the DBC in November!Refugee by Alan Gratz
Published by Scholastic Inc. on July 25th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Survival Stories, Historical, Military & Wars, Social Themes, Emigration & Immigration
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JOSEF is a Jewish boy living 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 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 kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers -- from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end. Alan Gratz (Prisoner B-3087, Projekt 1065) delivers an action-packed novel that tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.