Read for the sympathetic portrayal of Syrian refugees, but look elsewhere for geopolitical nuance.

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WITHOUT REFUGE

After narrowly surviving an airstrike, Ghalib suddenly finds himself being forced to join the Kurdish Protection Units or else risk his life fleeing to Europe.

Ghalib wanted nothing more than to become a pharmacist like his father. Instead, he spends his days dodging barrel bombs and missiles. The city of Kobani, where Ghalib lives with his family, is constantly under attack, leaving little left of the once-vibrant hub of Kurdish life. Ghalib refuses to be another soldier in the Syrian war, so instead he and his family embark on a harrowing journey to escape what was once their home. The arduous path to safety crosses through dangerous Islamic State–held territory and the Turkish border, where only steadfast courage and exceptional luck can get travelers out alive. Along the way, Ghalib will find himself separated and alone, searching for any sign of home among the thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives. Through everything, one question continues to linger in the back of Ghalib’s mind: Will Europe let us in? Writing in Ghalib’s present-tense voice, Mitchell pens a vivid narrative of the displacement, loss, and sheer bravery of Syrian children traversing land and sea, surviving bullets, bombs, and the tumultuous Mediterranean to begin a new life. While this part of the story excels, Mitchell glosses over the humanitarian crimes of all of the warring parties in Syria, emphasizing those of the Islamic State over the Syrian government’s, which leads readers new to the subject to believe that the main perpetrators of violence are Islamist groups.

Read for the sympathetic portrayal of Syrian refugees, but look elsewhere for geopolitical nuance. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5415-0050-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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