Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Katherine Marsh
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
After fleeing a life of suffering and tragedy in war-torn Syria, fourteen-year-old Ahmed escapes to Belgium, losing his father, the only surviving member of his family, along the way. With nowhere to turn, Ahmed finds himself one night hiding in the wine cellar of a house occupied by an American family. Sick, desperate, and hopeless, Ahmed tells himself he will only stay long enough to recover, but then he is discovered by thirteen-year-old Max, the youngest resident of the house. Max is initially frightened, but he has compassion on Ahmed and soon realizes he wants to help him. With the aid of some friends, Max crafts a way to enroll Ahmed in his school, battling racial prejudices and enduring terror attacks along the way. Together, Ahmed and Max find ways to defy the odds, learning from each other that there is always reason for hope, kindness, and courage.
This book is an eye-opening, engaging look into the refugee crisis in Europe. The suffering felt by Ahmed, his family, and his fellow refugees is rendered in beautiful, heartbreaking prose. The growth of the two main characters over the course of the book is wonderful to see and experience. Max starts off as a somewhat bratty, troubled young boy, but through his experiences with Ahmed he learns to be grateful for his circumstances and of the priceless nature of kindness. Ahmed has lost everything and feels rejected at every turn, but over the course of the book he realizes there are always people out there who care and that he should never give up hope. The book encourages readers to look beyond stereotypes and prejudices to see the humanity of others different from ourselves and find ways that we can help. This is a wonderful book that promotes kindness, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and compassion.
*Contains mild violence.