Chosen by Farhana
‘What a wonderful man,’ said Mum, as she helped me put the pomegranates in my rucksack.
‘He looked like a king,’ I said, thinking of the ring with the stone in it and his red turban.
Mum laughed. ‘He certainly has the heart of one! Maybe he is one! You can never tell with people!’
You certainly can’t. The man in question gifts the main character two pomegranates, one of which is for Ahmet, the mysterious new boy in class. Ahmet is also a refugee and he has an extraordinary story to share, one that captivates his new friends, who are determined to help him find his family...
I first came across Onjali Raúf's The Boy at the Back of the Class through my nephew. Who’d read it three times. Wow - it must be good, I said, and then proceeded to find out for myself. I was not disappointed.
Since its publication in 2018, The Boy at the Back of the Class has won multiple awards (the Blue Peter Book Award 2019 and The Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019) and has rarely left the bestseller charts, which for a children's book dealing with weighty themes such as war and the refugee crisis, might surprise you. However, despite some sad moments, it’s also a heart-warming and often hilarious page-turner about the power of kindness and sticking up for what’s right, no matter the odds.
And speaking of big hearts, the author Onjali Raúf (also a World Book Day 2020 Author), who is from East London and is of Bangladeshi heritage, is not just a wonderful writer, but is committed to helping others. She is also the founder of the NGO Making Herstory, a women's rights organisation, and frequently delivers emergency aid packages to refugee families in Calais and Dunkirk. So it’s doubly satisfying to see the messages of the novel having an impact beyond its pages, as we can see from the author’s retweets of messages from fans regarding how they have been getting involved.
So if you, as well as the kids, are looking for a novel that is as addictive as lemon sherbets and as adventurous as a Tintin comic, we highly recommend the huge-hearted The Boy at the Back of the Class.
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