Stranded for several days in Gander, Newfoundland, after American airspace was closed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rabia, a 14-year-old Afghan girl, and 11-year-old New Yorker Colin unexpectedly connect.
Walsh has used facts of the extraordinary welcome some 6,000 grounded air passengers received as unexpected guests of the surprised islanders as background for the stories of two young people: the Afghan refugee, escaping with what remains of her family, and the American sixth-grader, worried about the possible dissolution of his. It is the open friendliness of Canadian sixth-grader Leah that connects the two. As many Americans did, Colin reacts first with hostility, mindlessly connecting Rabia's Afghan nationality and Muslim faith with the acts of Osama bin Laden's followers. Learning her story makes him more sympathetic. And, though somewhat confusingly told from different points of view, this is essentially Rabia’s story. There are flashbacks to earlier, happier times before she lost a foot to a land mine, her father was arrested, her oldest brother died, and her second brother was sent away. When her mother has a heart attack in Gander, Rabia rightly feels overwhelmed. Happily, responsible adults step in.
Part refugee story, part 9/11 remembrance, this is a welcome addition to a small shelf. (Historical fiction. 10-14)