I saw this book recommended in a Tweet by Emma Carroll, and I am so grateful to her for introducing me to this wonderful and important story.
The tale begins in a London primary school and follows the events that occur after a new boy appears in class a few weeks into the school term. A group of four nine-year-olds are determined to befriend the new boy and refuse to believe the rumours that other children are spreading about him. After hearing Ahmet’s tragic story they feel that they must do everything they can to reunite him with his father. One of the group has “the greatest idea in the world” and after a few tweaks to the plan, two of the friends set off for central London where they hope to enlist the most powerful person in the country into their campaign to allow Ahmet’s father into the UK. In a hilarious side-note, the children are thoughtful enough to take extra teabags and shortbread to their meeting, just in case she is not expecting guests!
This is such an engaging, funny and touching story. I loved the accurate portrayal of a child’s sense of fairness and justice and their determination to try to put things right. Like all the very best writers Onjali Rauf has told a simple truth and made us think about the way refugees are treated, but wrapped it in a delightful story.
I hope that “The Boy at the Back of the Class” is available in every school library, I think that all children aged 8/9 and above will engage with the characters and enter into the spirit of this timely tale.
If you love this book, why not try The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson next?