I just finished reading When Stars are Scattered last night, and suffice to say, it left me …. well, with my thoughts scattered all over. It took me a while to gather those thoughts together and write this post. Reading this book made me realize all over again that graphic novels are powerful. And brings to mind why picture books are so important too.
So here is my attempt at a review, because I cannot call this as more than an attempt. Words continue to fail me.
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When Stars are Scattered
Title: When Stars are Scattered
Author: Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson
Illustrator: Victoria Jamieson and Colorist: Iman Geddy
Publishers: Dial Books
Pub Date: April 14th 2020
Genre: Graphic Novels/Social Situations
Age-Range: 9 – 12 years (and up)
Omar and his little brother, Hassan, arrived in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya, seven years ago. Their father was killed the day they left home; they haven’t seen their mother since they joined their neighbors who were fleeing to Dadaab. Now Omar is eleven and Hassan is nine, and Omar has quit school to look after his brother, who has an intellectual disability.
When Omar is given the opportunity to return to school and carve out a future for himself and Hassan, he feels torn. He loves school and could have the opportunity to earn a coveted scholarship to a North American university–and with it a visa for himself and Hassan. But is it worth the risk and heartache of leaving his vulnerable brother for hours each day?
Told in Victoria Jamieson’s engaging and accessible graphic-novel style and based on Omar Mohamed’s gripping true story, this book is an intimate, important look at day-to-day life in a refugee camp.
Victoria Jamieson teams up with co-author Omar Mohamed and colorist Iman Geddy to bring Omar’s story to life in a way that will tug heartstrings throughout.
Strong, crisp writing along with the incredibly detailed visuals and the dark yet bright palette of colors enable the reader to focus on the story itself. The power of the graphic novel is such that it allows the reader to be a witness, to go through events with the narrator, and, more powerfully, to feel.
The book covers Omar’s (and Hassan’s) journey; as they escape from their home on foot to the safer haven of the refugee camp, to finally resettling in a whole new land, the United States. Dadaab is a place of contradictions: where everything stays the same, until it is not ; where joy and sorrow, hope and despair, uncertainty and dreams, coexist. Omar’s story, as well as those of the people around him, sheds light on both the bleakness and the warmth of life in the refugee camp.
When Stars Are Scattered is a great way – the perfect way – to introduce one and all to the harsh realities of the lives of refugees, and to help understand their situation better. It is an eye-opener and lends itself to important discussions. And reminds the reader that many across the world live almost their whole lives in refugee camps such as these.
Those Little Things that Got to Me
While the book overall is powerful, each and every panel, each and every word, there were a few events/incidents that had a greater impact on me. I mention some here:
- like when Omar and his friends play with a football made of plastic bags
- or when Omar thinks the glass of juice a UN agent offers him feels funny, because it is cold (the first cold drink for Omar)
- and then when he relates his and Hassan’s journey from Somalia to Kenya
I loved the helpful footnotes explaining acronyms, translating words, or giving better context to something on the page. The author’s notes as well as additional backmatter are a must-read. And I absolutely love how this book is so accessible for everyone.
This book is heartbreaking, raw, powerful and at the same time full of hope, inspiration and awe for the strength that is in each one of us as humans. A must-read for all ages (ignore the age recommendations completely) and a book that will stay with you for a long time.
EndNote: Check out https://www.refugeestrong.org/ . Omar Mohamed founded this organization to help refugees, especially the ones in Dadaab
Get When Stars are Scattered Here
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, have you read this book? Your thoughts on this book if you have read it? And recommendations for any similar books are always welcome.