Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: Without Refuge by Jane Mitchell


Thirteen-year-old Ghalib wishes his life could go back to normal. He wishes he could still hang out at the market with his friends, root for his favorite soccer team, even go to school. But civil war has destroyed his home.

As violence rages around them, his family makes the difficult choice to flee Syria. Together they start out on a dangerous journey toward Europe. Along the way, they encounter closely guarded borders, hardscrabble refugee camps, and an ocean crossing that they may not survive.

This is the title I would recommend to any upper elementary/middle grade student who is just starting to be aware of the conflicts and refugee crises going on around the world. Striking a delicate balance between not being too gory or frightening but not whitewashing the issues, Without Refuge can help answer some of the questions so many people (kids and adults) ask. Why don't people just leave? Why do they have to go here or there? Why do they take this risk or that?

Mitchell manages to include many different aspects of the refugees' journey, while showing that the refugees themselves are all distinct individuals, with individual choices to make. The story begins with Ghalib being a very normal young teenage boy in the middle of a life most American children cannot begin to imagine. I imagine most 13 year old boys will be able to see themselves in him, making a connection that will hopefully help them stay in his shoes as the journey becomes more and more foreign to them.

An excellent addition to any elementary or middle school library, with plenty of talking points to make it a great book study! 

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