REFUGEE BOY by Benjamin Zephaniah


Age Range: 10 & up
Email this review


“Look at me, look at all the things that I am capable of, and think of all the things you could call me—a student, a lover of literature, a budding architect, a friend, a symbol of hope even, but what am I called? A refugee.” This is the fate of the refugee. Not only does he flee desperate circumstances, he is ever a stranger in a strange land, ever an outsider with a single identity: refugee. Alem Kelo’s father is Ethiopian, his mother Eritrean, and war is being waged between the two countries. Since his parents’ lives are in danger, Alem is brought to England. Alem thinks he is on a brief pleasure trip, but when his father leaves him there without saying goodbye, he is overnight a refugee in a land of refugees: Asians, Africans, Romanians, Kosovars, and Chileans. After a brief stint in a hotel and an awful time in a children’s home, Alem is lucky to be placed in a foster home with the Fitzgeralds. There he thrives, goes to school, and gradually becomes active in the refugee movement. Though he faces difficult times in England too, the Fitzgeralds provide a safe place. Sometimes the prose is awkward and overwritten, but the story is compelling. And, somehow, even with so much tragedy in a young boy’s life, it doesn’t get bogged down. Alem is a survivor. He says, “Circumstances beyond my control brought me here, and all that I can do now is pick myself up and try my best to make something out of what is left of my life. If good can come from bad, I’ll make it.” Alem is a refugee who transcends his identity as such; he becomes a hero, even a role model and readers will care about him. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: July 1st, 2002
ISBN: 1-58234-763-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2002


ChildrenWHEN I GROW UP by Benjamin Zephaniah
by Benjamin Zephaniah
ChildrenJ IS FOR JAMAICA by Benjamin Zephaniah
by Benjamin Zephaniah
ChildrenGANGSTA RAP by Benjamin Zephaniah
by Benjamin Zephaniah


NonfictionTHE NEWCOMERS by Helen Thorpe
by Helen Thorpe
ChildrenLAST AIRLIFT by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch