No ballet shoes in Syria

Author: Catherine Bruton

Catherine Bruton tells a very important and moving story through this book. Her introduction powerfully explains what inspired her, when writing it, and why she felt Aya’s story needed to be told. Whilst it will definitely appeal to those who love ballet (it reminded me of the many hours I spent reading the Drina series when I was younger) it will also absolutely be enjoyed by those who don’t – ideal for children in Years 4 – 6. Pre-order your copy now, before it is released by Nosy Crow on May 2nd 2019.

Within these pages you can follow eleven year old Aya as she begins a new life in Britain, after fleeing her home in Syria. Her story is expertly told, both past and present, with compassion, empathy and hope – leaving the reader expectant for her future.

I really liked the way ‘flashbacks’ are subtly used to give us insight into Aya’s previous life (before the war started) and to retell the perilous journey her family had to take to reach ‘safety’. The descriptions of Aya’s life in Aleppo provide an important contrast to the Syria we so often see in the news and help humanise Aya and build empathy with her – rather than sympathy.

As the journey she has taken gradually unfolds it helps build the enormity of what Aya has been through in a gentle and less sensational way – but by no means less hard-hitting. I was brought to tears on more than one occasion and had to stop reading at the end of Chapter 41 as an unexpected twist dawned. (I won’t give it away here but it really affected me – as is the way with good story telling!)

There are lots of references to ballet and these sections are used well to convey the emotion that Aya feels and how she starts to come to terms with all she has experienced – as well as connecting her with previous and new friendships.

Whilst this a poignant and emotive story it is also uplifting – it celebrates the kindness of strangers and Dotty’s complete acceptance of Aya and fiercely loyal friendship is truly inspiring.

This book tells a story that tragically, in essence, will mirror the lives of so many children and young people. It has stirred something within me to want to help and if it does with you too, then the links below have further information on how:


Manchester Refugee Support Network

Refugee Council

I will be using Aya’s story in school as part of our work for Refugee Week (June 17th – 23rd 2019) which you can find out more about here:

Refugee Week 2019

You can pre-order your copy on any of the links below, or through your preferred bookseller or ask your local library to buy it in for you to borrow and read for free!




A very sincere and heartfelt thank you to Clare Hall-Craggs and Nosy Crow for a proof copy to read, in return for an honest review.


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