by Katherine Marsh, published 2018
“Ahmed–he had a name, Max reminded himself–was just a boy, a boy who liked soccer and comic book heroes. He had lost his parents, he was alone, and he seemed far more frightened than dangerous.”
As I closed this children’s book at last, my heart was still pounding from the drama of it all, and my eyes were wet from the humanity and inhumanity both. Another children’s book about children refugees, this one is by far the most dramatic I’ve read yet. I almost couldn’t read it, as fear permeated my mind each time I thought Ahmed was going to be caught. Yet the heroism and courage was there to avert disaster.
The author ends her acknowledgments with this phrase: “…the courage to live a moral life.” This children’s book is a clarion call to adults as well as children. Vast numbers of refugees from all over – South America, the Middle East, Africa – are waiting for the world to wake up and show their moral courage to say, “Enough.” The parallels in this book with WWII and the Nazi policies are apt- people everywhere targeted primarily because of race or religion or national background.
What does this have to do with children’s literature, the focus of this website? Everything. Our children need models of courage, models of kindness, models of humanity, and above all, hope. This children’s book tries to present models in terms kids can understand – the model is a teenager and his friends. At the same time, all the events in the book read like an amazing piece of action-packed fiction, except — they are all real! Our current events are so outrageous one wishes it was all fiction.
Again, I recommend reading this as a family. It is imperative that we keep the discussion alive. How to help refugees? How to help the children? How to live a moral life? And how to sustain hope?