Book Review: 'The Boy at the Back to the Class' By Onjali Q Rauf, illustrated by Pippa Curnick.

One of my favourite things about my job as a Teaching Assistant is getting to talk to the kids about books. I love, love, love when they want to tell me about the books they are reading and I love asking them about what they have read, what books they enjoy and who their favourite authors are. A few months ago, I recommended 'Be the Spark' by Elle McNicholl to one of the girls in my class and she suggested that I read 'The Boy at the Back of the Class' by Onjali Q Rauf. (illustrated by Pippa Curnick)
 She bought the book in for me one morning and I quickly read the first page before lessons started and struggled with putting it down. 


There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.

He's nine years old (just like me), but he's very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn't like sweets - not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!

But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn't very strange at all. He's a refugee who's run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.

That's where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we've come up with a plan. . 

My Review

I honestly don't know where to even begin with this book. I could cry with how beautiful and incredible it is. I instantly fell in love with the narrative and adored the way the child spoke, how they explained everything, how they saw the world. I was trying to read a little bit of it every morning when I got to work. I got my activities ready, set myself up for the day and then whenever possible snuck a few minutes, before the kids came in, to try and read it. This proved too difficult as it was so endearing right off the bat that I didn't want to let go of it. I would then end up rambling to the class teacher about how amazing it was and at this point I was only up to to chapter three. 

I ended up bringing the book home with me for the Christmas holidays and once settled in with it on the couch, I didn't stop and read it in three days. I am so grateful to the little girl for bringing it to my attention and making me read it. I think every child and every grown up should read it. It is absolutely stunning!!!!! I truly can't stress that enough!!! This book is written through the eyes of a child and Onjali does an outstanding job with the narrative, the thought process and the actions of this beautiful fictional nine-year-old. There were so many times I could hear the kids in my class through the child's voice and see them saying and doing what the child in this book does.  

Love, kindness, hope and empathy ooze from the pages. This story pulls at your heart strings and makes you want to be a better person. For me, it was another reminder of how no dream is too big or too small and that if you believe in something with all your heart and go after it that you can make them come true. While at the same time it teaches us that while not all dreams are possible, no matter how much we wish for them to be so, that if we do things because of love and if we act in kindness and with compassion we can still make a difference no matter if we meet our end goal or not. It can be those small acts a long the way that can have a great impact on a person and create those special bonds and friendships. The small tokens that this wonderful friendship group did to reach out to Ahmet had me smiling so big, from giving him sweets and fruit and stickers to being desperate to speak to him and waiting around for him at the end of the day, it will melt your heart and remind you of how the little things in life truly are the big things.  

The children in this story didn't have any control over finding Ahmet's family but the love they had for him and their acts of kindness each day still made an impact on his every day. I love that this book teaches kids to think big and to try. I love that it teaches them to embrace their differences and learn about each other and love one another. I think "The Boy at the Back of the Class" is an absolute MUST READ for everyone and I now have Onjali's "The Star Outside my Window" and "The Night Bus Hero" on my TBR pile.  

Also please check out O's Refugee Aid Team and see what you can do to help raise funds and support projects that help those running from war. 

Happy Reading.


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