Jamila has come to Australia from Iraq with her little brother and her Mama. Her English is no longer the best in her class – she’s the worst, and her Mama always needs her to come home to help her carry out daily tasks. Jamila is waiting for her Baba to come, but in the mean time can she fit in by joining choir and making a new friend?
This is a sweet little novel that will hopefully help primary school aged children understand how it can feel to be different in a new place. The character of Jamila could be slipped into by anyone at a new school, not just refugee children. I could empathise with Jamila wanting to make a good impression.
I loved how Jamila was able to stand up for herself, and that her hijab (which is usually the thing ‘picked on’ by other children in other novels) isn’t even a big deal for her. If anything, Jamila is a little more plucky than I would expect for someone her age – but I’m not going to complain about that. Her new friendship was a little too neat though (it’s always the new kids that stick together, right?).
I think this novel does a good job of being both age suitable but also exploring greater problems. Jamila and her Mama are lucky that there are great refugee services near them and that Jamila’s school is happy to help out. There are many people that don’t have these opportunities, or like Jamila’s Baba, are trapped in their old, unsafe country. Hopefully some of that uncertainty comes through to readers.
This novel is going to be suitable for younger readers, perhaps ages 10 and up. I read this novel very quickly, but it will take younger readers longer. I’m giving it 4 stars.
Text Publishing | 7th May 2019 | AU $14.99 | paperback