Nowhere Boy: exploring migration
Ahmed leaves Syria with his father to find safety. Max leaves The United States with his family because of his father’s job. Both boys end up in Brussels, Belgium and a strange set of events lead them to live in the same house. Only Max doesn’t know that Ahmed is there.
Hidden in the cellar of Max’s large townhouse, Ahmed tries to find ways to survive while Max grumbles about how unfair his new life is. But when Max finally discovers the secret in the cellar, it changes his life, and Ahmed’s, forever.
The story is set around the time of the Brussels terror attacks, and the atmosphere in the city is tense. There is a general feeling of unease and many people are afraid of the refugees and their possible links to terrorist organisations. Max battles with his own fears and has to decide whether he can trust Ahmed or not.
Katherine Marsh has created a wonderfully clever and warm book, looking at the reasons for migration and the consequences of people moving home.While not shying away from the harsh realities that face refugees from Syria, she tells the story with compassion and a gentleness suitable for children taking their first voyage into such difficult ideas.
Max’s problems are very real, and while he is shown that they are not as terrible as Ahmed’s, his anxieties are portrayed in such a way that readers can see that everyone is carrying their own troubles and these should be acknowledged, no matter how big or small.
Nowhere Boy weaves a third story into the narrative: the story of Ralph Mayer, a young Jewish boy who hid from the Nazi’s in WWII with the help of Albert Jonnart. Albert was killed for this act of resistance, but Ralph escaped. During her time in Brussels, the author Katherine Marsh actually lived on the street where Albert lived.
The book explores big ideas of migration, refugees and terrorism, and while all these themes are discussed, there are no graphic descriptions and we learn of most event through TV, newspapers and other characters talking. However, there are a lot of emotional pulls and expect a tear or two before the end. A great book to start a discussion about refugees for kids from 10 and up.
Nowhere Boy is written by Katherine Marsh. It is published by Roaring Book Press (Macmillan).