Children’s book of the week: Boy, Everywhere by A M Dassu

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Our latest recommendation for young readers is a haunting, human piece of work from author A M Dassu.

One of the areas that’s been heavily cut back on as newspapers and magazines trim their budgets in current times is reviews of books for young readers. As such, it’s getting trickier and trickier for authors of books for children and younger readers to get their work noticed. This weekly spot on the site is our attempt to do something about that. If you see a book you like here, please do spread the word. And who knows? We may see some of these stories on the big screen in the future.

One of the most beautiful things about children’s literature is its ability to take a hugely important topic and turn it into something pertinent and accessible. Boy, Everywhere – the debut middle grade novel by Dassu – does this wonderfully, charting the harrowing journey one boy and his family take as they flee war-torn Syria in a search for safety.

Sami, his parents and his younger sister (who has been rendered mute by the horrors she has seen) travel to the UK, leaving behind a comfortable life of privilege, abandoning everything and everyone they have ever known as their lives are in real danger.

Their journey, across countries and continents, and fraught with all manner of fears and threats, is one so many of us think we know about. We, adults and children alike, may see the headlines – the numbers and statistics – but may rarely have given much thought beyond them.

How much thought have we given to the fact that these are real people that so often get stigmatised as ‘other’, or how often is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative constructed?  How often have we thought the true nature of what they are seeking refuge for, and what they have had to give up in order to stay alive? That’s what this book shines a light on.

Sami’s easy and reliable life is catastrophically torn apart within an instant and oh-so-easily, as it could happen to any of us – another fact that seems to be forgotten all too often in mainstream media coverage.

Dassu renders these topics beautifully within her carefully crafted writing. Whilst undoubtedly harrowing and heart-breaking, her language is accessible and suitable for those aged 10 and above.

Sami, his family and those they meet along the way are so well rendered, feeling like real people as opposed to one-dimensional figures. The empathy is effortless woven within, highlighting the traumas that arise from the journey and the degrading nature of the immigration system upon their arrival to the UK – it really does feel like we are learning as we read, with hearts and minds being opened along the way, as we turn from page-to-page desperate to know what will happen next.

A pacey and immersive read – this is an immensely important book that deserves a place in every classroom and every child’s bookshelf.

Reading age: 10+
Publisher: Old Barn Books
Further details and ordering: right here

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