When Stars Are Scattered by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson

When Stars Are Scattered by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson is one of the most inspiring graphic novels I’ve ever read. It opens your eyes to what life is like for refugees and the conditions that they live in while at the same time filling you with hope.

It is the story of Omar Mohamed and his younger brother Hassan. They have spent most of their life in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya, after escaping from their home in Somalia. Through Omar and Victoria’s words and pictures we learn about daily life in the refugee camp (referred to as an ‘open prison’). There’s never enough food or water, the routine is tiring and there is no access to the medical care needed for Hassan. When Omar has the chance to go to school he knows this is the only chance to break free of the refugee camp and make something of their lives. Going to school though means leaving his brother every day. Omar strives to work hard while coping with life.

This is an important story for both kids and adults to read. Omar’s life may be different to what we know and have experienced but there are also similarities. He struggles with middle school, friendships with boys and girls and with the small family that he has. Omar shows readers that no matter where you come from and how tough your life is you can rise above it and achieve your dreams.

This graphic novel is slightly different from Victoria Jamieson’s previous books but her illustrations are a perfect match for Omar’s story. I especially love her portrayal of the bond the two brothers share.

At the back of the book both Omar and Victoria tell us how their collaboration came about and we learn more about Omar’s life after the end of the story.

When Stars Are Scattered is one of the best children’s graphic novels of 2020. It’s a must-buy for all school libraries and a good companion to Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin’s excellent graphic novel, Illegal.

The Un-forgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

When you speak a different language from everyone else or come from a different culture it can be hard to fit in and make new friends.  In his new book, The Un-forgotten Coat, Frank Cottrell Boyce tells us the story of two brothers from Mongolia who just want to fit in.

The Un-forgotten Coat is told from the point of view of Julie, who is chosen by Chingis and his brother Nergui to be their ‘Good Guide.’  As their ‘Good Guide’ Julie looks after them and helps them to fit into their school and life in England.  Julie and her classmates learn all about Mongolia and that Chingis and Nergui had to leave their home because they were being chased by a demon.  Julie wants to be invited around to their house like her other friends but she can’t even figure out where they live.  When she discovers where they live Julie and her mother are not welcomed and Julie doesn’t understand why.  One day Chingis and Nergui disappear and Julie’s teacher tells her class that they weren’t supposed to be in England and were sent back to their own country.  Julie never sees or hears from them again until she makes a discovery on the internet many years later.

The Un-forgotten Coat is a story about friendship that leaves you with a smile on your face.  It shows you how hard it can be for people of other cultures to fit in, but how they just need friends to help them along the way.  There are some really funny parts in the book, especially when Chingis and Nergui are learning how to play football.  I really liked how Frank Cottrell Boyce has used Polaroid photos to help tell the story and I think it would be interesting to write your own story just using the photos.   Frank Cottrell Boyceis a great storyteller, and if you like his other stories including Millions, Framed and Cosmic, you’ll love The Un-forgotten Coat.