A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that When Stars Are Scattered is a graphic novel about a boy's experience growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya. Omar arrived at the refugee camp with his younger brother when Omar was 4, and lived there until after he graduated from high school. No graphic violence is shown, but wartime violence is implied in men with guns and sounds of gunshots and screaming. Parental loss is also a strong theme. But Omar is a great role model for perseverance, courage, gratitude, empathy, and humility. So are the family, friends, and community members who support and care for each other even in terrible circumstances. Readers will gain a lot of empathy and compassion for people like Omar, and his story is filled with positive messages about love, faith, community, hope, hard work, and doing the best you can. There's also a lot to learn about what life is like in a refugee camp, and how people become refugees in the first place. It may inspire readers to learn about Somalia and Kenya, and how they can help refugees in their own communities and around the world.
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What's the story?
WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED is the story of Omar, a boy of about 11 who's been living in a refugee camp in Kenya since he was about 4. That was when soldiers came to the farm where he was born in Somalia. Omar's father was killed, and while running from the danger Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, were separated from their mother. He and his brother eventually make it to a refugee camp in Kenya where they're paired with a foster mother, Fatuma. Hassan has special needs, and Omar has promised to always take care of him. So when Omar gets a chance to go to school at long last, he's not sure if he should be away from Hassan for so many hours a day. But Hassan is capable of more than even Omar knows. Omar and Hassan spend the next 15 years growing up in the camp, always hoping to find their mother again, and endlessly waiting to be chosen for resettlement.
Is it any good?
This is an engaging, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting graphic novel that will inspire and amaze readers of all ages. When Stars Are Scattered, based on co-author Omar Mohamed's memories of growing up in a refugee camp, puts a personal face on a crisis that affects millions around the world. He and co-author and illustrator Victoria Jamieson manage this moving story with simple, often elegant words and with lively pictures that use bright and beautiful colors. It's almost impossible not to admire Omar's spirit and appreciate the lessons he learns about family, faith, community, hope, and perseverance.
A flashback sequence when Omar tells how he and his brother lost their home and family, and about their long journey to the refugee camp, is scary and sad. Sadness from losing his parents is also mentioned a lot, so be prepared to help younger readers who connect to the story work through any fears that may come up. Everything has a safe resolution, and reading the Afterward and Author's Note will bring even more resolution to the story. The ending is poetic and bittersweet, so have a tissue handy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the positive messages in When Stars Are Scattered. What do you think Omar would like us to learn from his story?
What are Omar's character strengths? Does he have any weaknesses?
What did you learn about what it's like to be a refugee? What surprised you about it? What kinds of things can you do to help people who need it?
- Authors: Victoria Jamieson, Omar Mohamed
- Illustrator: Victoria Jamieson
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: April 14, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 264
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
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