REFUGEE for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Thanks to Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal for recommending this one several months ago. It took a long time to reach the top of my to read pile but the wait was worth the time spent turning the pages.

I immersed myself into three stories of families fleeing dictatorship for a better life. Told in third person, it stays close to the young main characters, each from a different time: Josef in 1930’s Nazi Germany; Isabel in 1994 Cuba; and Mahmoud in 2015 Syria. Their tales of escape are told in alternating chapters.  In many ways the sad stories were hard to read. No family in this world should have to endure the suffering that took place on these pages.

What it does do is provide empathy for the seemingly endless refugee crisis. The writing here is crisp and tension filled and although the young characters are fiction, the facts surrounding their terror are real. Historical fiction should bring to light a different time period so readers can learn. It’s accomplished at the highest level here and won’t be a book you’ll soon forget.


From SCHOLASTIC PRESS: All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers — from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.


  1. The stories told here would be a fantastic discussion springboard for upper middle grade on up through high school. Younger readers should be cautioned of the violence and death portrayed on the pages before they even think about reading this one.
  2. The unfolding of events in each time period will challenge your thinking. The refugee crisis will continue to have more chapters unfold and finding a solution should be a top priority of our leaders. History shows sending them back is not the right answer.
  3. Cell phones come into play for Mahmoud and his family. A technology I hadn’t even connected in helping with a refugees path to freedom.
  4. The cover depicts the danger ahead and the feeling of isolation each of the characters face. A perfect visual.
  5. I appreciated the short chapters. Teachers often don’t have 20 minutes to read a full chapter out loud with the length of many MG books. Small doses followed by discussion will lead to better understanding.

FAVORITE LINES: Although not a line from the story, this comes from the Author’s Notes after describing what we can do to help the refuge situation:

I will be donating a portion of my proceeds from the sale of this book to UNICEF, to support their relief efforts with refugee children around the world.

Alan Gratz

I was an eighth grade English teacher before I was a full-time writer, so I suspect that’s what I would be doing. My dream job, outside of writing novels? Game show host. I also wish I could draw comics.  (See more at Alan’s website)


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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8 Responses to REFUGEE for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. Bibi Belford says:

    I’m excited to read this book. I’m working on something right now that reminds me of this theme. I hope our country will always be a refuge for refugees.

  2. I was interested when Patricia reviewed this. You just confirmed it needs to be on my list. Thanks for the reminder. Have a wonderful holiday season.

  3. msyingling says:

    This one is showing up on a lot of lists. Also take a look at Senzai’s Escape from Aleppo and Abawi’s A Land of Permanent Goodbyes for more perspectives on the events.

  4. I am so glad you enjoyed this story and I liked how you shared ways it could be used in the classroom. This was one of my favorite reads this year!

  5. Susan says:

    Also following Patricia’s recommendation, I just read this one with my reluctant reader son, and now he is a huge Alan Gratz fan! Although I thought the amount of action was somewhat over the top at times, he loved it. It is an intense book. I like how the author follows three different families, so it is like three books in one.

  6. Dorine White says:

    Wow, this sounds like an intense book and one I haven’t heard of before.

  7. Jill the OWL says:

    Thanks for reviewing this one. I’ve been seeing it around, and was glad to finally hear what people were thinking of it!

  8. Pingback: MG FAVORITES for 2017 | Always in the Middle…

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