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The Storybarn selects… from The Reader Bookshelf

Written by Maisie Jeynes, 4th October 2021

As part of our ongoing work exploring texts from The Reader Bookshelf, we've asked members of our Children & Young People Team to talk about their favourite children's books from the collection. 


This month our Reader Leader & Community Engagement Coordinator, Emma Taylor, shares her thoughts on The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Rauf.

“We all clapped but we didn’t clap as loudly as we usually do for stories because I think we were feeling strange. I don’t think any of us had heard a story like it before. And as sad and scary as it was, it was even sadder because it wasn’t just a made-up story from one of our reading books. It was all real. Ahmet had survived everything his pictures had shown us and was here. With us. Knowing that made me feel sorry and proud and scared for him all at once; but most of all, it made me want to tell him he was the bravest person I knew.”

This book is a wonderful take on conflict and justice. Ahmet is a 9 year-old refugee from Syria coming to terms with his journey to the UK with the help of his classmates. The story gradually unfolds from the perspective of a fellow classmate who does her best to make Ahmet feel welcome from the moment he arrives, having no knowledge of Ahmet’s history or context.

There is an adorable chapter called Forty Winks where, following the lovely buzz of warmth she feels when an adult winks at her for doing well, she tries to recreate this feeling for him and repeatedly winks at him throughout the day in the hope this rubs off on him.

This accessible novel is an ideal route to thinking about human rights no matter your age, 9-90.

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