Onjali Q. Rauf – The Boy at the Back of the Class

A warm, engaging and inspiring look at an all too relevant topic, I would recommend this book to everyone, but particularly as a very engaging and relatable way to introduce the topic of the refugee crisis to young children.

I first heard of this book when it started winning awards, namely the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019, and although it’s a children’s book, it hits with a big punch.

Written from the perspective of a 10 year old (who I spent most of the book assuming was a a boy, but I think was a girl), and their experience when a new boy starts at their school. Ahmet is quiet and unusual and not everyone in the class feels like they need to treat him with respect.

But our protagonist and her friends decide that they want Ahmet to be their friend, and they’re willing to go to great lengths to make sure that he feels welcome and at home – I loved their first attempts of putting stickers on fruit – that really brought a smile to my face!

I wasn’t expecting this book to hit quite as hard as it did, but I think the naivety and complete innocence from the young perspective made it all seem so obvious. It makes you wonder how some people can be so prejudiced against the obvious struggles of other humans genuinely coming here to claim asylum from such horrible situations.

When Ahmet read out his life story in front of the class, I actually got a tear in my eye, thinking of how real that story is for so many people. And while we can’t all go to the lengths that the kids go to in this book, we can all do things that will make a difference.

Definitely a book that will make you think, go out and pick it up now!

My rating: 5Average rating: 4.55
256 pages. Published in: 2018
Read in Paperbackon 19th May 2019

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