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4.6 out of 5 stars71
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 11 February 2002
WOW!!! Meet Alem. His Mother is Eritrean, His father Ethiopian, and with both countries at war, Alem and his Family are neither safe or wanted in either country. Then his father does something which at first seems horrid, but really shows love towards his son. Follow Alem as a Refugee. Be careful. This book is sizzling hot with love compassion tears and in the end joy.
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on 24 September 2001
A heart rending story that shows how strong children can be. Although this is similar to Face which looked at a teenagers ability to cope with change, it is much more challenging about topical issues. My low ability class of 14yr old boys have begged me to buy this book after my description of reading it in one sitting and ending up in tears. It covers the problems of family break ups, bereavements and friendships. A rollercoaster ride.
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on 8 August 2006
I dont read many books but i choose this because i thought it was going to b a good read, i was right. I couldn't put this book down. It is very touching to read. As the main character and myself were rufly the same age i found it easy to understand him but i would encourage any person of any age to read this book.
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on 2 December 2015
Refugee Boy is a brilliant book. Funny yet saddening. Heart warming yet heart wrenching.


This is a story about a boy called Alem. His mother is Eritrean and his father is Ethiopian. With both countries at war life becomes exceedingly difficult for Alem and his family. Because of the war, Alem's parents are separated, working for peace in the two countries. Alem and his father move to England and seek asylum. They stay in a hotel and in the night Alem's father returns to Ethiopia to be with his wife and to work for peace. Alem is left alone in a new country with no family or friends. He is shunned and insulted for where he comes from, England was supposed to be an accepting place with nice people but soon Alem finds out that he is unwanted.

Alem first is taken by social workers from the Refugee Council to a children's home for refugees. Soon he is bullied and beaten until he runs away. He is found and taken into foster care. He gets fostered by the Fitzgeralds, a supporting family of three; mother, father and daughter.

Soon Alem's life begins to become even worse, with news of his mother being lost. Later he gets a letter from his devastated father saying that his mother had been brutally murdered. It was not safe for Alem's father to be in Africa anymore, so he came home to England. All the while Alem's asylum request is being questioned, and with the reuniting of Alem and his father the court decides that they must both return to their homeland.

Alem had made many friends in his new school and the inspiring story of the school marching through the streets fighting for justice for their friend Alem. The children organise by themselves marches, fund-raising events and a petition. It was a success, it was all over the radio and the news, life could finally be well for Alem... Until Alem goes back to his father's hotel and his father does not return. Soon Alem's life is turned upside down as he hears that his father has been shot in the streets.

Alem goes back to live with the Fitzgeralds and his asylum request is granted because he no longer has any family to care for him. It is a sad but heart warming ending.

Refugee Boy has made me look at England in a different light, from the perspective of a refugee not used to politics, government and immigration. Anyone that says refugees are beggars, annoyances and invaders should read this book, by the end I can tell you 100% this book will change the way they think about refugees.
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on 11 October 2010
This is a children's book by the poet, I think its one of his early books. Its about a boy who comes to England from Ethiopia, and his struggle to get asylum in Britain. It is well written and takes you through all the process that he has to go through to get asylum. It was good because it was very sympathetically written, you felt sympathy for the boy but didn't feel like Benjamin Zephaniah was trying to make out that any part of the system was wrong or unjust. It just laid out the facts in an easy to understand way. I would recommend this to both adults and children, as although it is easy to read it brings up some big issues.
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on 29 August 2013
I have a problem with books like this. It's a common mistake I encountered a lot when I worked as a publishing editor. The issue is when an author fails to understand and resolve the difference the market and the readership. The market is who buys the book; the readership is who reads it. If they are out of alignment, the resulting book is often uneven in tone because it is pitched at two different groups at once. Refugee Boy is written for the schools market, and as an English teacher myself, it raises lots of interesting issues about immigration, human rights, multiculturalism and social responsibility that my students can debate and discuss at length. It is effectively a textbook, and serves the same purpose as a provoking media article, as opposed to being a noteworthy piece of fiction. For example, some of the phraseology is lacking in naturalism e.g. when Alem's father describes himself as a `pan-Africanist' in a letter to his twelve-year-old son. The character development is also extremely disjointed in places - Alem's friend Robert rapidly evolves from playground luddite to intellectual free-thinker and political reformer in order to support the exploration of the themes of immigration and social justice.
I have no problem generally with issues-led books, but having raised a number of important issues, Zephaniah has literally no idea how to end the novel, so the resolution, involving a double tragedy, is extremely contrived and lacking in plausibility. A much better example of an issues-led book where audience matches readership is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
If you are a teacher of English you can do a lot with this book, particularly as many of the contentions raised are dubious to say the least, e.g. that the political asylum process in the UK, which is in fact one of the most liberal and inclusive in Europe, is unnecessarily draconian. As a meritorious piece of fiction in its own right, however, Refugee Boy, has some fundamental shortcomings.
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on 14 December 2010
This books leaves you wet with tears... a very moving true story.. a definate recommend and useful addition to your library. Once you start you wont want to keep it down i read it in hours..thats how good it is.
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on 15 February 2013
This caught my eye from Amazon advertising alongside a book I had ordered. I recognised the author but was still surprised
by how good it was and it was easy reading. The type size is quite large. The story is told through the eyes of a 14 year old boy abandoned in England by his father because his life would be better in UK than in his country of origin. It contains all the perils of teenage life in UK 21st century culture which he sees objectively and compares with his African experience. It's a good read and quite stimulating. Teenagers and adults would both enjoy this book. Is it used in schools for debate?
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on 12 May 2012
I found that Refugee boy is a book that takes you on a emotional rollercoaster . It makes you think how Alem must feel as his parents are in a mixed marriage and both countries are at war. His family are not wanted in either Ethopia and Eritea so they must move to h England. When Alem and Mr Kelo(Alem's father) both get to England Alem's father makes a life changing decision which seems horrible at first but then makes starts to make sense as the pages past. Alem has to get through a lot of happy and sad times but wants you to join him. But be prepared for laughter and tears.
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on 21 October 2011
This is a book well worth reading! The book draws you in straight away - it doesn't have any dull moments at all. This book is a really good insight into the life of a refugee on the inside, it can make you see refugees in a different light (as apose to stereotypes) and demonstrates how people (especially children) can achieve a lot when they work together as a community. It also shows how the experience and privilege of education can be very different for children in different countries and shows the contrast between children's attitudes about schooling.
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