Review: Catherine Bruton – No Ballet Shoes in Syria

No Ballet Shoes in Syria
Catherine Bruton

Aya, and Mumma and Moosie are waiting for dad to appear to continue on with their lives. But he’s lost, and without him the family is adrift in an alien world. Aya is the one looking after Mumma and Moosie and helping them claim asylum – but is there time for her own ballet dreams as well?

I loved Moosie! Aya’s interactions with him really brought her to life for me. Her friendship with Dotty made me feel a bit ambivalent, because Dotty made me feel angry in a way – how inconsiderate she is, and how nice Aya is in comparison. But I’m sure Aya wasn’t nice all the time either – what 11 year old can do that all the time?

I admit that I didn’t like the title. There were, in fact, ballet shoes in Syria. That’s how Aya learned to dance after all! And she managed to find ballet teachers in most of her stopping places on the way to Europe too. I liked how although she had natural talent, we saw her working really hard as well.

I did particularly like the full circle of Aya and her new ballet teacher’s lives. I guess I can’t say more without giving one of the major tear-jerking plot points away. It’s scary to draw parallels between fleeing the Nazi invasions and fleeing war torn middle eastern countries.

It must be so difficult being an asylum seeker. At least in Britain they’re allowed out into the community – in Australia we lock them up behind barbed wire and turn their leaking boats away. It is amazing the way humans can treat other humans so poorly. We should be asking refugees what makes them so resilient and resourceful.

This middle grade novel fits a niche that I think will resonate well with grade 5 and 6 readers. If you’re looking for a slightly more teenage version of this novel, I could suggest When Michael met Mina or even You Must Be Layla (again, quite middle grade). These are not strictly refugee novels, but have similar issues of being different for reasons you can’t change. 3 stars from me, and 4 stars for its intended audience.

Nosy Crow | 5th August 2019 | AU$14.99 | paperback

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