Refugee BoyRefugee Boy
By Benjamin Zephaniah
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

“This book brings to light the plight of refugees everywhere…The book would be a great asset to students learning about diversity and how they should handle similar situations.” –Children’s Literature

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Alem is on holiday with his father for a few days in London. He has never been out of Ethiopia before and is very excited. They have a great few days togther until one morning when Alem wakes up in the bed and breakfast they are staying at to find the unthinkable. His father has left him. It is only when the owner of the bed and breakfast hands him a letter that Alem is given an explanation. Alem’s father admits that because of the political problems in Ethiopia both he and Alem’s mother felt Alem would be safer in London – even though it is breaking their hearts to do this. Alem is now on his own, in the hands of the social services and the Refugee Council. He lives from letter to letter, waiting to hear from his father, and in particular about his mother, who has now gone missing…A powerful, gripping new novel from the popular Benjamin Zephaniah

Reviews & Accolades
Zephaniah, a London-based performance poet, sends a strong political message in his realistic account of a young refugee’s struggles…While audience members may feel distanced from the young hero, they will be outraged by the injustice he confronts and moved by the tragedies he endures.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“…Alem and his loving father are heartbreakingly real, and the plight of refugees in England is powerfully shown. This is a memorable story that will make a great choice for booktalking.” –Booklist

“This is one of three novels about African immigrants in Great Britain that I have read in the past year. The treatment of political refugees is slightly different there than here in the U.S., but the confusion and suffering shared by immigrants escaping tragedy are the same wherever they seek refuge…Zephaniah is a Jamaican who may be similar to one of his characters in this novel: a young man who is especially close to Ethiopia because of his Rastafarian faith. This character preaches peace and understanding from that point of view. The story and the characters are realistic and likeable—they tell the larger story of the struggles of those escaping persecution in their homelands.” –KILATT

This book brings to light the plight of refugees everywhere with the depiction of Alem, a well-rounded character, facing unbearable struggles and still persevering. The easy-to-read book is written in a calming manner even in the wake of its adversity. The book would be a great asset to students learning about diversity and how they should handle similar situations.” –Children’s Literature

“Look at me, look at all the things that I am capable of, and think of all the things you could call me-a student, a lover of literature, a budding architect, a friend, a symbol of hope even, but what am I called? A refugee.” This is the fate of the refugee. Not only does he flee desperate circumstances, he is ever a stranger in a strange land, ever an outsider with a single identity: refugee…Alem is a refugee who transcends his identity as such; he becomes a hero, even a role model and readers will care about him.” –Kirkus Reviews

Groups Represented

Family relationships, survival, immigration


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