February Book of the Month – Years 7 & 8

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jameson and Omar Mohamed

At the end of January, the organisation EmpathyLab launched its Reading for Empathy Booklist.  Each book has been chosen to do a specific job in building up your empathy.  I’ve chosen one of the 20 books in the collection for secondary schools as February’s Book of the Month. 

When Stars are Scattered is a graphic novel based on the true story of Omar Mohamed who was forced to flee, with his younger brother Hassan, from his home in Somalia to a Kenyan Refugee Camp called Dadaab.  There, they live with an elderly woman, Fatuma, who has been assigned to look after them in the camp.  The book covers six years of their lives in the camp as they, and all the other refugees, try to gain legitimate passage out of the camp for resettlement to another country. 

It’s written and illustrated in a beautiful and simple way which makes it accessible but belies the importance of the message.  This page is a great example of what I mean: 

The story opens a window on a world far away, one that is all too easy to forget exists.   When a foreign TV crew turn up to film the camp, Omar wonders “if anyone ever watched these shows back in England or Australia or America?  And if people did watch them, why wasn’t anyone helping us?”  If the news reports aren’t enough to spur us into action then this story might just do it.  Through Omar we see the trauma and uncertainty of refugee life.  We also see the love and support the refugees show to each other.  You cannot fail to be moved by the heartache and sorrow expressed in this story.  I was certainly not prepared for it and read the final few pages in tears.  This is a story that will stay with you for a long time.   

Highly recommended for Years 7 and 8.  (Have a box of tissues close by when you read it!)