GUEST WRITER LAUREN SIEBEN RECOMMENDS WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED BY VICTORIA JAMIESON AND OMAR MOHAMED
When Stars Are Scattered is the graphic retelling of author, Omar Mohamed’s, experience growing up as a Somalian refugee in a Kenyan refugee camp. After his father is killed, Omar and his nonverbal little brother, Hassan, get separated from their mother and are forced to flee their village to the camp where they are “fostered” by an older woman living there. Omar knows that their best chance to leave the camp and change their future would be for him to get an education. But with no money, no supplies, and a brother who needs his care, Omar must choose between surviving the present or changing their future. The story spans the fifteen years Omar and Hassan spend in the camp and weaves their own stories with the stories of the people closest to them, as they try to navigate the truth of growing up in a refugee camp.
This book is a necessary addition to any classroom library. It is a story of survival, heartbreak, and the human spirit. Omar’s storytelling, combined with Victoria Jamieson’s graphics, created a book so compulsively readable that I was unable to put it down. It made me laugh and cry, as well as consider the ways in which education can shape our lives. It is a perfect mentor text for in-depth discussions around refugees, disabilities, loss, access to education, sexism, family, and survival. Though this book deals with some heavy topics within the refugee experience, the overarching message is one of inspiration, hope, and compassion. It is a great book for having conversations around empathy and inclusion, all while making refugee stories extremely accessible to a middle grade and young adult audience. Every child and adult should read this book, and I can wait to incorporate it into my ELA classroom.
Lauren Sieben is a High School ELA teacher at John Caldwell School in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.