Monday, January 01, 2018

MMGM- Escape From Aleppo

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

26146347Senzai, N.H. Escape From Aleppo
January 2nd 2018 by Paula Wiseman Books
ARC provided by the author.

Nadia and her family live in an apartment building in Aleppo, Syria, so her aunts and uncles, and well as her grandmother, are all close by. When their neighborhood is being bombed in October of 2013, they have a plan to leave and head toward the Turkish border to meet Nadia's father. With the help of her older cousin, Razan, Nadia packs up her cat, Mishmish, and prepares to leave. Since being caught and injured in a bombing earlier, however, Nadia is very fearful of being outside, and her hesitancy Causes the family to be caught in a direct hit of their building. Nadia is not badly injured, but is trapped in the rubble, and her family leaves her, assuming that she has perished. When she finally emerges, Nadia tries to follow the agreed upon route to a dental clinic, but the landscape of her neighborhood is barely recognizable. Along the way, her cat reappears, and she is fortunate enough to meet an elderly man, Ammo Mazen, making his way across the town. He agrees to help her, applies ointment to her wounds, and listens to her story. The two don't find Nadia's family, but they find two boys who were being helped by a friend of Mazen's. Basel, who is eight and looking for his grandfather, leaves with them, but Tarek decides to stay behind. Mazen must visit lots of contacts on their way out of Aleppo, and Nadia, after snooping through his wagon and overhearing conversations, discovers that he is finding a preserving rare books and artifacts that would otherwise be destroyed in the war. Mazen's health is not good, but the small group, which Tarek eventually rejoins, makes their way towards Turkey. Mazen's health is not good, and the journey is arduous, so he stays at a small town near the border while the children make the final leg of their journey, hoping to be reunited with Nadia's family.

This is a timely and important story that will help young readers understand what is going on in Syria, and grasp why their are so many people who have been displaced. Since a story is only illuminative if children read it, Senzai adds many vivid details that will draw readers into Nadia's experience. In the first part of the book, Nadia flashes back to more pleasant times of her life. We see her enjoying a birthday party, celebrating with her family, and relishing small pleasures, like polishing her fingernails or playing with her cat. For reasons I don't understand, my students don't quite grasp that children in other countries live lives very similar to their own until wars or other tragedies disrupt them. These details of Nadia's life before the bombing of her apartment building goes a long way to investing readers in her life.

As Nadia travels across the city, Senzai does a fantastic job of describing both the shops and streets before the war, colored with Nadia's experiences in various places, and contrasting that with the devastation that has occurred. Details about the history of the conflict and of Ammo Mazen's past alternate with the grim present that include soldiers, snipers, and bands of teenagers out looking for any supplies they can steal. This makes the story both informative and exciting, and sweeps us along in Nadia's journey to Turkey.

As Nadia's fear turns to grim determination, we also see how the war is affecting young Basel and Tarek. Ammo Mazen is a huge help to the group despite his somewhat suspect past, and his ill health makes his devotion to getting the children to a safe place all the more touching.

While Gratz's recent Refugee has the story of a family escaping a similar situation in Syria, Escape from Aleppo will appeal to readers who wonder how they would survive in a war-torn environment, but like this author's riveting Ticket to India, showcases young people trying to survive such trials without the support of their families. When I was a tween, I was fascinated by stories of children my age during the Holocaust or on the Oregon Trail because they were pulse pounding and exciting, but reading about these experiences also made me appreciate the hardships of others. Escape from Aleppo is a must-read middle grade novel for understanding the evolution of the current political environment in the troubled country of Syria.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow - this would have been perfect for our previous reading theme. Will definitely find this one. Have a great 2018 ahead of you!