Five reasons to read The Boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Q. Raúf
It's already the middle of January 2020. I am back with my fifth post for 2020. In this new post, I would like to share with you my simple thoughts on a novel I just finished reading last December 2019. The novel is titled "The Boy At The Back Of The Class" (later TBTBC). Let's get to know the author and the story first before the five things about the novel that make me enjoy reading it.
TBTBC is a novel written by Onjali Q. Raúf with illustrations by Pippa Curnick. TBTBC may be labeled a children's novel, but to me, TBTBC is also a great read and eye-opener for the adult reader. Onjali Q. Raúf is an author and founder of Making Herstory, an organization that encourages men, women, and children to work together in tackling the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond. She is also a humanitarian who helps refugees living in the UK and France. TBTBC is Onjali Q. Raúf's first novel. It is published by Orion Children's Book in 2018. TBTBC has won two awards - Blue Peter Best Story Award 2019, and Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019. Besides TBTBC, Onjali Q. Raúf has also written a novel titled The Star Outside My Window (2019).
TBTBC tells a story of a 9-year-old girl named Alexa and three of her BFFs - Josie, Michael, and Tom who believe in being kind and good. Alexa, Josie, Michael, and Tom are also classmates. One day, a new boy came and he sat at the back of the class (the sit was empty before). The boy's name is Ahmet Saqqal, he is also 9 years old, from Syria. Ahmet is very quiet. He does not smile at people at all and always looks sad. All the kids in school think Ahmet is weird. But Alexa and her friends try to be nice and kind to Ahmet. They make friends with the Syrian boy. Soon Alexa and her friends find out that Ahmet is not weird at all, rather he has a tragic backstory that makes him seemed weird to others. Ahmet is a refugee who ran away from the war in his original country, and he is also separated from his family (his father, mother, and younger sister). The more Alexa and her friends learned about Ahmet, the more they want to help him. They want Ahmed to be happy like other kids. One day, while Alexa was on her way to school, she heard some people on the bus talking about refugees in England. One of them was saying that the British government is going to restrict refugees from entering the UK. The government is planning to implement a border restriction for the refugees in nine days. If Ahmet's family isn't found before the border restriction is implemented, he will never see them again. Ahmet will be very sad. Alexa and her friends don't want that to happen to Ahmet. So they thought of ideas and strategies to help Ahmet. They first wrote a letter to the Queen. But unfortunately, they didn't receive any response from the Queen. So they came up with Plan B. They gatecrashed the changing of the guards' ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Surely enough the kids got themselves into much trouble and of course, even made into most newspapers' headlines the next day. Their story became "the talk of the town". The Queen heard the news. Her majesty considered Alexa and her friend's request and decided to take action. At the end of the novel, Ahmet's family was found. His father -Mohamed Saqqal was in the Calais Refugee Camp, France, while his mother -Samira Saqqal was in Turkey. Unfortunately, his younger sister - Syrah Saqqal, 3 years old had passed away. Ahmet and his parents were granted asylum and were soon to reunite in the UK. The novel has a heartwarming happy ending. Alexa and her friends, with their hard work and courage, succeeded in helping Ahmet be with his father and mother again.
Now, I would like to share with you the five things in TBTBC that make me enjoy reading it. The five things are.......
#1 The Adorable And Informative Illustrations
TBTBC is a children's novel with illustrations, just like Le Petit Prince. The illustrations in this novel are so adorable and informative. Looking at the illustrations makes it easy to understand the storyline, gives me information about Buckingham Palace, pomegranate fruit, Syria, and refugees. This novel is indeed very educational, in that it teaches children and adults alike about the war situation and how they harmed and families, especially children. Wars are not the answer to any conflict rather they must be avoided at all costs because wars destroy humanity. This reminds me of a Woodstock-era iconic poster that my mom always likes to quote ... War Is Not Healthy For Children And Other Living Things.
#2 Gives Me Knowledge About Syria
Onjali Q. Raúf's writing gives me knowledge about Syria and makes me understand the situation in the country. Syria is a country under war. Big war. Because of the war, the Syrian people have to leave the country and live their lives as refugees in other countries. Before this, I read a lot of news about Syria in the newspapers. The conflict is heartwrenching and a beautiful country like Syria is now wasted and destroyed, what more the people, their livelihood and their culture.
#3 Gives Me Knowledge And Makes Me Understand Refugees
This novel also gives me knowledge about refugees and helps me understand them. The writer describes refugees clearly and precisely. All refugees have a hard life. They have to leave all the things they love behind, adapt a new life in a new country, learn new things fast, and some of them are even separated from their family and loved ones. Onjali Qú Rauf's writing makes me feel for Ahmet Saqqal and others like him.
#4 The Heartwarming Storyline
TBTBC has a simple and heartwarming storyline. The story is easy to understand. Ms. Raúf's writing keeps me engrossed in the novel. Even reading the summary also makes me fall in love with the novel and wants to read it. I am grateful that I make the best decision to buy and read TBTBC. To me, it is one of the best novels I have read in my whole life. No surprise that a simple storyline is sometimes the best way to highlight a real issue, current and relevant. Although TBTBC may be directed for children, it is not irrelevant to adults, rather it moves and warms anyone who read it.
#5 The Art Of Kindness
Besides the heartwarming storyline, I also like the way Ms. Raúf portrays the art of kindness in her writing. Alexa and her friends really believe in being kind and good. They love helping other children and make them happy. If everyone in this world practice kindness like Alexa and her friends, the world would definitely be a better place. And to borrow Ellen DeGeneres's tagline, be kind to one another ... this is the best advice, command, order, request, or whatever you want to make of it.
Thus these are the five points that make me enjoy reading TBTBC. Overall, I rate this novel 10/10. I also highly recommend any bookworm and book lovers to read this novel. Trust me, you will love it and won't regret it. TBTBC is the best novel I've read in 2019. You can't be too young or too old to read this beautiful story ...
Before I end this post, I would like to ask you guys one question. What is the best novel you read in 2019?
Ok, that's all for now. Thank you for reading my review.
Fadima Mooneira ^_^
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