Thursday, 3 March 2011

Book Babble #5 - Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah

A very short and poignant story. Here's the online synopsis:
Alem is on holiday with his father for a few days in London. He has never been out of Ethiopia before and is very excited. They have a great few days togther until one morning when Alem wakes up in the bed and breakfast they are staying at to find the unthinkable. His father has left him. It is only when the owner of the bed and breakfast hands him a letter that Alem is given an explanation. Alem's father admits that because of the political problems in Ethiopia both he and Alem's mother felt Alem would be safer in London - even though it is breaking their hearts to do this. Alem is now on his own, in the hands of the social services and the Refugee Council. He lives from letter to letter, waiting to hear from his father, and in particular about his mother, who has now gone missing...

The protagonist, Alem, is 14 years old so that kind of reveals the age group this is aimed at. It's written in a simple style in keeping with a lot of BZ's other teen novels. Despite that I still think this is the kind of novel people of all ages would enjoy reading. Alem is such a well behaved and above all, reasonable kid who says some really straightforward but nevertheless profound things about society that I think are as relevant today as they were a decade ago. The ending was the saddest I've read in long time. It was an easy read but a powerful one. I'd definitely recommend it to all.

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