Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Nowhere Boy

39280442Marsh, Katherine. Nowhere Boy
August 7th 2018 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from

Ahmed and Max's lives are very different in 2015. Ahmed and his father have escaped from Aleppo, Syria only to be parted when the father drowns off the coast of Greece. Ahmed, who is 14, gets some assistance from an Iraqi refugee family, but when they all end up in Belgium, it is evident that they will be split up and Ahmed will go into care. He doesn't want this, so he runs away. He manages to find an open door in a neighborhood and can't believe his luck when he discovers a disused wine cellar and no one notices when he takes up residence. The house is being rented by Max's family while they spend a year in Brussels for the father's work. Max is not happy to have left home and to be enrolled in a French speaking school where the students are not always nice to him, so when he finds Ahmed in the house, he is sympathetic to his plight. He brings him some food and clothing, and with the help of Farah and Oscar at his school, forge documents and get Ahmed enrolled in Max's school, since that the thing he misses most, aside from his family. Things go well for a while, despite the meddling of a very concerned local policeman, Fontaine, whose family used to own the house where Max is living. However, when racial tensions run high after several terrorist attacks in the country, Ahmed wants to  find the Iraqi family he befriended. When even that seems to dangerous, he wants to leave Belgium, and Max helps him. The two have quite an adventure, which has a rather surprising ending.
Strengths: I enjoyed the note from the author about why she wrote this; her family spent some time in Belgium, and the details show this. There are several books about children escaping from Syria, but not many books that follow what happens to them in such great detail. Max's willingness to help Ahmed and to stand up to adults who spout racist rhetoric is heart warming. There is something appealing to middle grade readers about helping another child hide out, which adds another level of interest to this story. More of my students need to understand that school is a huge privilege!
Weaknesses: Max is rather bratty at the beginning, although the contrast between his complaints and Ahmed's is very effective. It also seemed a bit unusual that Max would have brought so many books from the US with him, but at least he likes to read!
What I really think: I wish this were a bit shorter and less complicated, but I will definitely purchase this for my stronger readers, since the topic is a timely and important one.
Ms. Yingling

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