Thank you for your patience as I have been a bit MIA this month. It’s been an especially hectic one! I recently had a death in my family and had a wonderful weekend celebrating the life of my grandfather with my extended family. And life is just busy with school, activities, church, adventures and family. Grateful for this beautiful month of October! I always feel like Anne Shirley at this time of year…
Today I am really excited to share a review of a recent favorite read of mine. When Stars are Scattered by Victorian Jamieson and Omar Muhamed is a graphic novel about Omar’s experiences growing up in a refugee camp with his nonverbal brother Hassan. Such a beautiful story and an important one!
- I’m not usually a graphic novel enthusiast but lately, I have enjoyed several. It’s a neat form that tells stories in unique ways.
- This book is just beautiful. Both the story and the physical book. The pages are thick and the quality is superb. I also loved the epilogue with more information about Omar’s story and how readers can learn and do more.
Book Summary: “Heartbreak and hope exist together in this remarkable graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl.
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day.
Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.”
I loved the graphic novel format and felt it was key to how moving this story was for me. Graphic novels give us a different insight in stories because of the pictures. While everything is not left to our imaginations, we see the story from a new angle. It was so interesting to see faces and expressions and the layout of the camp and setting of the story. I could easily visualize characters and their living conditions because we could see it. And while the refugee camp is clearly an overcrowded, intense and difficult place to live, it also felt like home through Omar’s eyes.
Omar’s voice is fantastic. We see the story through his eyes, the eyes of a child, but he also has experienced many hard things that have made him grow up fast. I love that this is based on Omar’s real experiences and that we get a glimpse into his real life at the end. He is searching for his mother. He is taking care of his brother. He is learning the value of education. He hopes for a better future. And he is not afraid of hard questions about God, his mother and Fatuma, friends, his brother, education, and the future. Yet through it all, Omar remains positive and is able to work hard to achieve his goals. He is easy to cheer for and a great protagonist for young readers.
This book addresses Important issues with grace and wisdom. The conditions in the refugee camp are surprisingly bad. I was shocked how little they have to eat and even that they sleep in the dirt. And how hard it is to get out of a refugee camp! The UN interviews and questions seemed so random and intense. And not nearly enough people had the chance to resettle! The wars and fighting that drove these people from their homes were so devastating. Hearing Omar describe it to the UN officers was chilling and harrowing. I learned so much and I want my kids to read this so they can also learn!
I also loved the important discussion of living with a family member with disabilities! It was so neat to read about Hassan and how he interacts and loves others. Even though he doesn’t speak (except one word that I loved the meaning of!), Hassan connects with others and needs acceptance, love, and a place to belong. I appreciated Omar’s experience learning how to treat Hassan as a capable member of the family and work together to make their life good. Their relationship is not perfect, but they are brothers. And they learn from their mistakes and are always loyal to each other.
What a fantastic book based on a beautiful true story! I loved experiencing Omar’s story. I loved the importance of education and all the wonderful things Omar says about learning, teachers, and working and studying hard. How amazing that Omar is telling his own life story and is able to help so many refugees like himself now. One of my favorite reads this year!
What refugee stories have you loved?
Any graphic novel fans out there? Which are your favorites?