Refugee by Alan Gratz
(Scholastic – July 25, 2017)
Thank you to Scholastic and Edelweiss for the digital galley of this title – all opinions are my own.
REFUGEE is hands-down the most important upper middle grade book of the year. It is the MUST READ read aloud title for every single middle school teacher this coming 2017-2018 school year, and I don’t say that lightly given that I read so so so many books! If WISHTREE is my required read aloud for grades 1-4, then REFUGEE is assigned for grades 5-8.
Gratz weaves three refugee stories expertly in this tale, leaving readers racing to figure out how they are connected in the end. Josef is escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Isabel is leaving Castro’s Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud is fleeing Syria’s civil war in 2015. All three stories involve persecution, danger, and the horrors of the refugee’s plight, but they also give faint glimmers of hope about the kindness of certain strangers. All three children end up on boats during their journeys, telling stories that even most adults in the US are unaware of regarding these refugee crises. Our students and children need to know of the events in this book, and Gratz does an excellent job of providing the historical basis for the stories in his author’s note. He also gives suggestions on how to help.
I can’t speak strongly enough about how important REFUGEE is, but am proving it by ordering 12 copies of this book for my school libraries and am planning a staff book club for my middle/high school this coming fall centered on this book. Teachers and librarians, get this book immediately so you can read it before you share it with your students. If you are an adult reader with no classroom to read it aloud to, gift it to a school, library or child you know! If you want an adult title to pair it with, I highly recommend EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid.
REFUGEE is officially on my BEST of 2017 shelf.