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Omar Mohammed spent his childhood at the enormous Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing the war in Sudan with his younger brother, having seen their father killed and becoming separated from their mother. Eventually resettled to America, he was already working on his memoir for adults when he met the Newbery Honor winning author who persuaded him to turn his story into a graphic novel. This accessible format and the first-person narration create an intimate picture of a very real boy and what life in a refugee camp is really like. It importantly puts a face and a personality to the refugee crisis. We feel the hunger, the physical drudgery, the monotony and the frustrations, but also the sense of community, the love and support of friends and neighbours and the moments of joy and the passion for learning. Omar and his friends Jeri, Nima and Maryam all want to learn and aspire to escape to the West. The injustice of the lack of spaces for older children, of girls who are not allowed to study and of who gets selected for resettlement are unforgettably conveyed. The relationships between Omar and Hassan, his mute and damaged brother, and with Fatima who lost all her sons in Sudan but cares for them is beautifully and movingly portrayed. They never lose hope that they might find their mother and in the afterword we discover how that story turned out. Readers cannot help but develop empathy and compassion for people like Omar. This is an outstanding book that is truly engaging, educative and heart-breaking but ultimately a story of hope and doing the best you can. An essential purchase for schools.
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