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This heart-wrencher of a tale chronicles three separate journeys of children experiencing what none should have to: fleeing a home that is no longer safe. We meet Josef, a Jewish boy leaving Germany in 1939 as he boards the ill-fated ocean liner St. Louis; Isabelle, who, along with her family, flees Cuba as a 1994 rafter; and Mahmoud, who departs Aleppo in 2015, bound for (bringing us full circle) Germany. The stories, unfolding in alternating points of view, are benchmarked at the start of each chapter with a subhead: xx days from home, demonstrating that from a kids' vantage point, home - or lack of - is the only landmark that really matters.
The three accounts really took me into the heart of these historical moments in a way that news reports rarely do, each depicting a unique version of desperation, tragedy, and longing. But while I was on the edge-of-my-seat throughout, the ultimate conclusion is one of hope - that the sins of our collective past do in fact have the power to positively impact the choices we make in the future.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
Gratz knows how to tackle tough topics, and has done so in previous books. In Refugee, he intertwines three children's stories that span across decades but all speak to the incredible challenges of surviving a refugee experience. A compelling story for middle school students as an independent read, and I plan to read it aloud to my fifth grade class. It is intense and there is violence and death, so it may require conversations with any upper el reader who is interested. Overall, I think this is Gratz's best work to date, and all three narrators were skilled in their deliveries of the three main characters' stories.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful