Monday 30 January 2017

Book Review: The Bone Sparrow; Zana Fraillon.

I can honestly say, without a doubt in my mind, that this book needed to be written. Fans of 'The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas' will like it, and also be horrified by the similarities considering that it's subject is one that is happening right now. It's not the past, it's the present, and it's why the refugee crisis needs more aid, media coverage and attention than it's getting.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Bone Sparrow
AUTHOR: Zana Fraillon
Orion Children's Books
PAGES: 240
GENRE: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Born in a refugee camp, all Subhi knows of the world is that he's at least 19 fence diamonds high, the nice Jackets never stay long, and at night he dreams that the sea finds its way to his tent, bringing with it unusual treasures. And one day it brings him Jimmie.

Carrying a notebook that she's unable to read and wearing a sparrow made out of bone around her neck - both talismans of her family's past and the mother she's lost - Jimmie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Subhi beyond the fence.

As he reads aloud the tale of how Jimmie's family came to be, both children discover the importance of their own stories in writing their futures.

What I Liked:
  • Honestly, the huge amount of research and knowledge that must have gone into this book is immense. My own ignorance was well and truly revealed, as I had never heard of the Rohingya people (a Muslim community originating from Myanmar) nor did I know that the Australian Detention Centres were anything like this. This book is educational in so many ways, and it's why I appreciate that Fraillon wrote it in a way that balances on that fine line between Middle Grade and YA. Because I think kids need to be educated on these issues and a story like this is the perfect way to do it.
  • The dual perspective was a clever way of relating the stories of it's two characters, Subhi (a refugee born inside the camp) and Jimmie (a free but poor Australian girl who lives just on the outskirts of the Detention Centre). It gave some perspective on two different 'less than ideal' Australian living situations, but kept it's focus well. The interaction of the two children was funny but heartbreaking to watch, neither truly understanding the situation and being naive to the other's life in so many ways. It really worked.
What I Disliked:
  • To be honest, I had a few quibbles with little things such as the pacing and lack of in-depth characterisation (it is after all for a younger audience than myself) but these didn't really amount to anything when compared to the emotional impact of the story. Some people will think that the ending was a little too hopeful, and perhaps a more tragic ending would be better for such a topic but while I can see that, I think that this worked. It almost spoke to me in a way that said 'people like you get to choose the ending by fighting for the real people that are suffering, and not allowing them to be forgotten). That's powerful.
Overall Conclusion:
This is a hard-hitting book full of heart ache, gorgeous quotes and coverage of a crisis that doesn't receive nearly enough. It's very relevant, especially during recent times, and I can only thank Fraillon for writing this book. As I said before, it needed to be written. It's not long, and perhaps a bit more page space should have helped it even more, but I liked what Fraillon ended up with lot and I advise anyone else reading this book to spare a few minutes and read the Afterword. It's enlightening and educational.

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