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The story is current and well written. It brings to the table important topics that children should be discussing: war migration, refugees, national security. And it does in a simple but deep and meaningful way, just like the two main characters of this story.
Nowhere Boy is the story of two boys living in Brussels, Belgium; Max is an American expat who is extremely unhappy with his parents for uprooting their family, and Ahmed is a Syrian refugee who has lost his entire family. Their story takes place during a tumultuous time in Europe, so readers will relive terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. With no family and no place to go, Ahmed finds himself living in the wine cellar of Max's family's basement.
While Max is miserable in his new school, Ahmed daydreams of being able to climb over the wall of Max's yard and walk to school like any other normal teenager. Max eventually discovers Ahmed in his basement, and they form a very unlikely friendship. Max risks everything to help Ahmed. He sneaks downstairs every night to bring him food and books to read. He even goes so far as to forge illegal documents to help Max attend his school. Unfortunately, a nosy police officer is constantly stopping by Max's house, so the boys live in fear that Ahmed will be discovered and deported.
The chapters are very short and alternate between Max and Ahmed's perspectives; however, the novel itself is fairly long: 353 pages to be exact. Students with low reading stamina may struggle to make it to the end of this novel. This book would pair well with Refugee by Alan Gratz; both novels compare the way Syrian refugees are being treated to the way Jewish people were treated during the Holocaust. Readers will see that even though it may be hard and scary to stand up for those who are being mistreated, doing nothing is not alright. This book will be more meaningful for older readers who are beginning to take interest in the world around them. If you know readers who are interested in current events or politics, I would definitely recommend this book to them. I would also put this book in the hands of any child who needs a lesson in empathy. Nowhere Boy is a worthwhile, meaningful read.
Ahmed is a 14-year old Syrian boy on a boat with his father, fleeing Aleppo following the bombing of their home, killing the rest of his family. As the sea gets rough, his father and two others try to swim the boat ashore, drowning in the process. On the precipice of being separated from the Syrian family caring for him in Belgium, he is robbed and abandoned by smugglers. Miraculously, he finds his way into the basement of an American ex-pat family, where he hides until he is discovered by the teenage son, Max. Max is miserable in Belgium, attending a school where he does not understand much French, and babysat by a biased biddy. The two form a strong bond, eventually fleeing together to avoid police arrest. I also liked the teenage characters from the school, including the bully and Farah, who help Ahmed, and the local policeman, who grew up in the house being rented by the American family. 4.5 stars.
This book does a nice job of describing the terrible plight of refugees, who will accept them and at what cost in addition to the rampant fears in Europe (an elsewhere) of Muslims, who have different and not well understood beliefs.
This book is a little too fantastical for me. I teach ESL and refugees so thought this book would be a good fit. It would work for middle/high school, but I thought some of the book was reaching. I'm leaving it in my classroom library, but I won't be looking to use it in lit circles or anything.