Refugee is a wonderful example of historical children’s fiction that explores the plight of refugees over time; drawing parallels between circumstance, persecution, emotional and physical hardships through the stories of three refugee children and their families. Drawing on three distinct periods of time and catastrophic events in different locations in the world Gratz explores the harrowing experiences of each family through the eyes of the young teenage narrators as they flee their homelands in the hope of finding safety and freedom elsewhere.
Germany in the 1930’s: Josef, a Jewish boy and his family, faces persecution fleeing the Nazis as they board a ship bound for Cuba on the other side of the world. But docking in Havana is not simple and their journey becomes more complicated and their family more distressed. When they reach land they are not wanted.
Cuba in 1994: Isabel, lives under Castro’s rule and economic crisis. There are riots and unrest plaguing her country, and her father is a wanted dissident. She and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America but the trip is fraught with difficulties and loss. When they reach land they are not wanted.
Syria in 2015: Mahmoud city of Aleppo is torn apart through civil war and he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe where they are unwanted and mostly ‘unseen’. When they reach land they are not wanted.
The book trailer introduces the three main characters and their circumstances.
Unfolding in tandem, each protagonists tells their personal of persecution, escape, journeying and reaching a destination. Despite the 85 year time span the similarities in circumstances and the driving forces of each teenager to reach not only a place of safety but also a place of acceptance present a poignant message on everyone’s need to be feel safe. The three stories are seamlessly interwoven with threads connecting events, locations and characters unravelling as the book progresses.
With so many refugee stories being published as a response to current global unrest, Alan Gratz has presented an alternative, historically accurate and heartfelt account of three asylum seekers. A wonderful read for all young adults and adults alike.