Review: When Stars Are Scattered
Our 7th grade has been reading Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water for several years. I was always surprised at how well received the book was by students, because it’s about a land so far away. Yet students are continuously moved by Salva’s walk to the refugee camp and Nyla’s search for water. What students never necessarily learn about or find out is what happens in the refugee camps.
When Stars are Scattered
By Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed (writers) Iman Geddy (artist)
Dial Books for Young Readers. April 2020. $12.99
Ages 10 and up
Omar doesn’t remember the very early years of his arrival at Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. But he knows he once had a family and they were forced to flee when his village was invaded by soldiers. Omar is primarily responsible for Hassan, his younger brother, who has special needs. He is fostered by Fatuma. They all live in tents, waiting for a chance to emigrate to the United States. But the wait is long.
Omar doesn’t attend school, because he is responsible for Hassan, but when the opportunity to attend school comes, Omar chooses to go. Neither going to the school nor leaving Hassan behind is easy, but Omar perseveres, and he and his brother continue to wait for resettlement.
The chance to emigrate comes when Omar is nearly an adult, having spent his entire childhood in the camp.
Though Omar’s story ends happily, readers are left with a sense of despair realizing how many people are left behind in these camps. The writing is strong, and the short, easy sentences allow readers to focus on the weight of the story being told, from the revelation of what happened when the soldiers came and killed Omar’s father to how he was separated from his mother and ended up in the refugee camp with his brother.
The artwork, with its dark yet bright palette, offers a glimpse at how things look and allows readers to feel the emotions in the story. The camp is depicted as a bustling and busy place, where joy and sorrow and despair coexist. The artwork will give as much insight to Omar’s story as the text itself.
Although it’s very different from Jamieson’s previous graphic novels, this book is a window to a world far away. It will allow readers to view their own lives in a very different light and hopefully allow them to understand the sorrow and heartache that are experienced all over the world.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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