The Bone Sparrow

by Zana Fraillon

Subhi has lived his entire life in a refugee camp in Australia, the first child born... read more

Subhi has lived his entire life in a refugee camp in Australia, the first child born there a decade ago. He and his family are members of the Rohingya minority ethnic group from Burma (Myanmar). Subhi’s best friend, Eli, is just a few years older, but when Eli angers camp authorities, he’s transferred to the men’s compound, separating the boys. Jimmie is a girl living nearby who sneaks into the camp one day with a notebook containing the stories her mother wrote down before she died. Jimmie struggles to read, but Subhi knows how, and when the two meet the stories become the impetus for friendship. As Subhi reads them aloud, Jimmie feels closer to her mother and Subhi to his father, a poet he knows only from his mother’s stories. Subhi’s and Jimmie’s lives and heir friendship are compelling—two children in painful circumstances finding solace in each other—while the illumination of the often cruel conditions at the refugee camp form both the novel’s backdrop and one dimension of its riveting climax. An author’s note provides more information about the political complexities of refugees, human rights abuses in refugee camps in Australia, and the Rohingya, considered by the UN and Amnesty International to be “one of the most persecuted people on earth.” (Ages 10–13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2017

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