The boy at the back of the class

Author: Onjali Q. Ruaf

Illustrated: Pippa Curnick

If you haven’t read this book yet, please do! It’s a moving, poignant and funny story that has deservedly won many prestigious awards (incuding the Waterstone’s children’s book prize 2019 and the Blue Peter book award 2019). Ideal for Years 4 to 6 (aged 8 to 11) and would be great to share with a class during Refugee Week (17th to 23rd June 2019) it was published by Hachette children’s group in July 2018.

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The story follows a group of friends on a mission to help the newest member of their class – a refugee called Ahmet. Initially unsure of him – and then of what to do – the group are resounding in their conviction to help in any way they can. (From what I have read of the author, this rings true for her too!) Their help takes different forms (with varying degrees of success and humour) but ultimately helps forge strong themes throughout the book of kindness, friendship and resilience.

Through this book Onjali has tackled a very emotive, important and challenging topic in a way that helps raise questions and conversation for a younger audience. It encourages empathy, tolerance and reminds us that, whilst adults may be older than children there is often a great deal we can learn from them – if only we take the time to listen and engage with their ideas and determination. Onjali has expertly captured a child’s perspective and voice; lighting the way for greater understanding, tolerance and a gentle (yet fierce!) call to action. I challenge anyone (of any age) to read this book and not feel compelled to do something.

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