(Middle-Grade Reading Level - Real-life depiction of the refugee experience - there is death, desperation, and peril)
This book is extremely popular with middle school teachers, and after taking time to read it myself, I'd have to agree. Instead of writing a traditional review, I thought I'd write a list of 5 reasons why this book is a great resource.
1. Gratz chose three stories that showcase disparate religions and cultures. In each case, he makes realistic connections between religious practice and daily life.
2. Each story demonstrates how unfortunately easy it is for people to divide themselves into groups without real cause.
3. The story of the Syrian refugee, Mahmoud, stands out because of its recency. Mahmoud's life deteriorates so quickly and allows students to see that the dividing line between a middle-class life and refugee status is actually quite fragile.
4. Gratz writes for middle schoolers. Each character portrayed a story that students can connect to despite the differences in culture or time.
5. Gratz ties the three stories together at the end to showcase the humanity of every refugee.
There is no doubt that this should be included in every classroom library. Also considering utilizing this book as a class read-aloud, or for a full class read.
From the publisher:
“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.
This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.”