Refugee by Alan Gratz [in School Library Journal]
The term “refugee” is constantly in the news. In direct response, Alan Gratz gets personal with desensitizing statistics, policies, and politics by giving names, families, and histories to three tweens fleeing three countries during three time periods. Each fits the “refugee” label but is so much more than that single word. These faraway strangers immediately become children who deserve urgent attention.
Josef (voiced by Michael Goldstrom) escapes Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II aboard the ill-fated St. Louis; Isabel (Kyla Garcia) leaves the unrest and deprivation of Cuba’s Special Period during the 1990s; and Mahmood (Assaf Cohen) flees the bombs in 2015 that continue to destroy Syria. Despite the distance in backgrounds and in decades, the three stories will converge – naturally, yet magically – by book’s end. For further edification, Gratz’s detailed author’s note contextualizes his fiction with truth.
Verdict: With its superb tri-part narration, the audio version provides an ideal (even mandatory) opportunity for libraries to share these resonating tales with readers reluctant to pick up the page.
Readers: Middle Grade