Parents' Guide to

Refugee

By Jan Carr, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Harrowing page-turner sheds light on child refugees.

Refugee Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 11+

Based on 9 parent reviews

age 14+

Book should include trigger warning

This book should have a trigger warning for those with past trauma or suicidal ideations. “After the evening roll call they would choose someone to drown, one every night. They would tie his ankles together, and his hands and a gag around his mouth and hand him upside down, …put his head in a barrel, fill the barrel with water slowly so they could enjoy the panic and laugh. The water would rise high enough …he would breathe in water and thrash around until he drowned upside down” Later this character has a very vivid scene in which he commits suicide. I can’t imagine why the publisher would recommend this for 9 year olds! It’s heavy. Parents please read this book before your children do.

This title has:

Too much violence
age 10+

Grumpy likes books kid

It's suitable for historical-fiction lovers, which I highly recommend it. Also don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube (Grumpy)

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (9):
Kids say (56):

This ambitious, harrowing page-turner is chock-full of historical information, and it succeeds in providing a vivid window onto the lives of three fictional child refugees. Author Alan Gratz alternates the three stories set in different countries and time periods, keeping the chapters in Refugee short and ending each on a cliffhanger, which makes them easy to follow. Gratz writes fast-paced, suspenseful fiction while involving us with characters who seem like real, relatable kids. Though he never lets up on his characters, who face new danger at each page turn, all the kids travel with their families, so there's comfort in that. He also skillfully manages to loosely relate the different stories and characters at the end, which adds to the poignancy and satisfaction.

The only quibble might be his handling of the historical context for the Cuban story. Gratz doesn't mention until his Author's Note at the end that the U.S. trade embargo has been a significant contributing factor to the hardship endured by the Cuban people, important information since the U.S.-Cuba relationship remains a thorny political issue. But the novel as a whole is masterful, and readers will be spellbound by these three very moving stories, which can help them understand and develop empathy for families who are refugees.

Book Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate