By Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian
Graded will welcome acclaimed author Alan Gratz in September 2019. During his week-long visit, Alan will work with students in grades 5-10. With support from the Graded Annual Fund, we have ordered 600 copies of the novel Refugee, one of Alan’s books. Prior to the holiday, rising 6-10 graders and staff will each receive a copy of the book and dive into the story. Over the break, students will be expected to finish reading Refugee and share their responses to it. Students will receive bookmarks with instructions. In August, grade 5 teachers will read Refugee aloud to their new classes as part of Reader Writer Workshop. Our visit with Alan Gratz will be enriched by the shared experience of everybody reading and discussing one of his novels.
Over the vacation, as your child is reading Refugee, we encourage you to engage in conversation around the book and its important themes. When school resumes in August, we are planning a variety of activities to deepen our understanding of the factors that compel individuals to flee their homes and their plights as they seek refuge.
Refugee tackles topics that are both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home. The following review from Kirkus provides an excellent synopsis of the story:
Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)
In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school-aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact. Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar. Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.
Reading history books and news articles gives students a sense of the events that have shaped our world. Statistics can provide numbers that might help students quantify the effects of those events. However, “When we can turn numbers into names,” Alan Gratz says, “then we can begin to build the empathy our country – our world – needs to survive.”For more information about Alan Gratz, visit his website: https://www.alangratz.com/.