Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Alan Gratz
Josef is a Jew during WWII fleeing to Cuba. Isabel is a young girl from Cuba during the political unrest of the mid-90s escaping to America. And Mahmoud is a young man from present-day Syria, running from the violence and destruction that plagues his home country. Each character undergoes horrific and stressful journeys in order to find hope in a new home. Josef’s family never make it to Cuba, but through a painful sacrifice, Josef’s sister is able to find peace and a home. Despite the grueling journey filled with loss, Isabel’s family finally make it to Florida. And after the terror of being separated on the Mediterranean sea, Mahmoud is able to get to Germany with his family. Despite the years spanning between them, the stories intersect at the end in surprising ways.
Alan Gratz does a stellar job of diving in and giving us fantastic details about each of the characters and their lives. These details really ground the reader in the characters’ points of view and in their world. For example, Gratz gives us details about Mahmoud’s family and their family dynamics that root us in Mahmoud’s shoes. Details about his baby sister, Hana, and about his younger brother and parents help us to feel a connection with Mahmoud as he makes his journey to Germany. Similarly, Gratz gives us details about Isabel’s best friend and about her father and mother and the unborn baby brother she’s waiting for. Josef has his younger sister, patient mother, and traumatized father. These additional characters really color the three main characters’ stories and help us, as readers, see their stories through their eyes.
*Contains mild language and moderate violence.