Tag Archives: Peace

April – The Boy at the Back of the Class – Onjali Q. Raúf

Happy April Everyone!

What a beautiful start to the year it has been. The spring flowers are much to be celebrated and the light nights are ever increasing. Today I want to share with you the absolute joy that is, The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf. Not only is this one of the books of the month for April, but this book also won the overall prize for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019. It’s current, relevant and an incredible read. I thought I’d take the photo in my garden with this little guy. The protagonist reminded me of him a bit. Look at his cute little face!

What’s it all about?

Told through the eyes of a group of friends, Tom, Josie and Michael, this novel is something we can all relate to in so many ways.

The story starts with an empty chair in a classroom following the absence of a student who had moved to Wales. A group of friends are naturally inquisitive and want to know why Mrs Sanders (the head of the school) and Mrs Khan (the teacher) are whispering at the front of the class. After a short amount of time, a young boy walks in behind Mrs Sanders. Ahmet became the focus of everyone’s attention. He looks very sad indeed.

‘I made a secret promise to myself right there and then that I would be friends with the new boy. I happened to have some lemon sherbets in my bag that morning and I thought I would try and give him one…’

Outside of lessons, Ahmet is nowhere to be found. After all, from the children’s point of view. it’s hard to make friends with someone when you rarely see them. However, one thing that is described so beautifully are his eyes. It’s the one thing that the character of Alexa (the story teller whose name we do not learn until the final chapter of the book) focuses on. The children wait until the end of the day and eventually they see him! They’re over the moon, but it doesn’t quite go as planned, despite having the lemon sherbets.

‘But the new boy grabbed her hand and hid his face behind her arm. I didn’t know what to do because I’ve never really scared anyone so much before that they wanted to hide from me.’

As days went by, the group of friends continually waited for Ahmet to give him gifts of sweets, chocolates and fruit. Over time, Ahmet started to make improvements with them. A smile here and a wink there. All signs he wanted to be their friends. After overhearing comments about how Ahmet is a ‘Refugee Kid’ the storyteller decides she doesn’t care and it really doesn’t matter. Finally, she gets a nod from Ahmet. A sign to her that it doesn’t matter that he’s a ‘Refugee Kid’.

‘I wish he had smiled back, because you can only ever know that a person’s really your friend when they like you enough to smile back. But it was OK because the nod felt like a promise, and I knew that I wouldn’t have to wait too long before the smile followed.’

What is beautiful in this novel is the storyteller clearly has an amazing mum. Working in the local library, books and knowledge centre their world. Naturally curious, the storyteller asks her mum questions about these children and their backgrounds. It all rings so true with the images we have all seen in the media. However, the child friendly language used makes it seem relatable by everyone; young and old.

Ahmet joining the class raises more questions than answers. Yet, the children are focused on being his friend and learning more about him. They had learnt that he was from Syria and had to flee from war. The storyteller and her mum decide to go off in search for pomegranate in the hopes that Ahmet would like this reminder from his home.

‘The new boy fell quiet. And then, for the first time since we met him, he smiled… a real, proper smile that went from one cheek to the other.’

One part of the novel that absolutely had my heart breaking was Ahmet telling his story, with pictures, to show the class what had happened and where he had come from. Story time is something so common in every classroom in the country. This one created a lump in my throat.

Ahmet tells his class all about his home in Syria, his mum and dad, as well as his sister and their cat. The war in Syria had led him to flee on a boat (like those seen on our television screens) to some form of safety. He went from Greece to the setting of the novel and his new school. To a new beginning. After telling his story hands shoot up around the classroom with yet more questions. The storyteller extends friendship further by offering her beloved Tintin comic to share together. We learn the truth about Ahmet’s family – his sister, mother, father and cat and why he is all alone.

‘I waited to see if Ahmet would show them the pictures and tell them about Syrah and the sea and his mum too. But, he didn’t, and I knew that he wanted me to keep it a secret.’

Then something happened that changed everything. Whilst travelling on the bus, the group overhear a conversation about the refugees. Again, it is a conversation we have all heard over time with some sympathetic views in comparison to the more judgemental views. Nevertheless, the children hear that the border is about to be shut, meaning Ahmet won’t see his family ever again. Despite telling their teachers, the group feel slightly fobbed off. It’s time to make a plan, or three, just to be on the safe side. These include writing to the Prime Minister or creating a Special Appeal. But, that wasn’t the greatest plan of all. The greatest plan in the world involved writing to our one and only Queen of England. They even create an emergency plan, just in case!

Time was plodding a long and the children were well aware about the discussion about the borders being closed. Therefore, it was time for them to work together and head for a London adventure! They had to help Ahmet and his family before it was too late. After navigating the trains and making their way around London, they need to get to the palace. They had presents for the Queen too! The first character they meet is Stan the Taxi driver. He’s a hit straight away!

Following Stan they then meet two Cold Stream Guards: Chris Taylor and Walter Kungu. After a mini adventure in itself, the guards promise to give another letter to the Queen and the presents they brought for the Queen too.

‘Getting into the back seat of the police car, we waved back. Lots of people began cheering and waving at us from all along the palace walls, so we waved back at them too, even though we didn’t really know why.’

As you can imagine, what came next was complete stardom. The children were in the news and causing a stir around the whole world! They even had a reply from the Queen. Finally, the children and Ahmet had some good news. Alexa also had her birthday. In fact, it is here that we finally learn her name! Her birthday was a complete surprise but the best gift wasn’t for her at all. It was for Ahmet, her best friend.

‘I know that afternoon was one of the best afternoons I will ever have. Not because it was my birthday, but because it was an end to one of the best adventures a brand new ten-year-old could ever have…’

Final thoughts

This book should be read by absolutely everyone. I mentioned throughout about comments we would have all heard in the media or even in our every day lives. However, this novel brings a voice to so many children and families who have been in this situation. It’s about friendship and kindness and the fact that we can always do more to help. The childlike innocence throughout is endearing and beautiful. This book is a deserving winner and an excellent read. It stands for something so much more than we ever could realise.

Big love all. Xxx

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13 Comments

Filed under Book review, Children's Literature, Waterstones Book of the Month

Sea Prayer – Khaled Hosseini

Hello Loves!

Hope you’re all well and enjoying kicking up the leaves that Autumn is kindly offering us.

Today, I want to share with you a book I saw, bought and read after work yesterday. After a really long, difficult week, I decided to treat myself to a hot chocolate and a little read so headed to my sanctuary: Waterstones. I saw this book in the window and decided it was time to read it. Thank goodness I did. I soon realised that my long and difficult week was just that, only a week, a moment. Not a lifetime.

What’s it all about?

In less than fifty pages, this book has made me question so many things: life, attitudes, the world. This poignant and powerful book is a collaborative piece between Hosseini and Dan Williams. The illustrations are stunning and harrowing, just like the words within.

Written as a response to the refugee crisis, Hosseini has given a voice to the thousands of people who made the same journey from war torn Syria across the Mediterranean Sea to safety. Unfortunately, as we all know too well, thousands did not survive.

Structured as a letter from a father to his son, the night before their journey, this book starts with memories of their past, safe life in Homs. Memories of family members, the animals, the sounds of the city are all shared, creating this beautiful homage to their old life. However, this is something the son, Marwan, cannot remember.

‘But that life, that time, seems like a dream now, even to me…’

The illustrations then become much darker in hue, the words more troubled to show that life has changed. References to the protests, the siege and bombs dropping on their beloved city. Sadly, this is what Marwan knows; what he has grown up seeing on a daily basis. He and many other innocent children.

‘You have learned dark blood is better news than light.’

It is the night before their journey and on a moonlit beach people agonisingly and nervously wait for the morning. Yet, fear of what is waiting for them at the other side is also on their minds. Hosseini references the attitudes reported, the fact that they are ‘unwelcome’ and ‘uninvited’. Sadly, I too have heard reactions like this. It is answered from the words of the mother, making it, in my opinion, all the more heart breaking. The role of the mother is to nurture and protect, to understand.

‘Oh, but if they saw, my darling, even half of what you have. If only they saw. They would say kinder things, surely.’

Everyone prays for their safety, well aware of how deep and large the sea is. Everyone knows the risk they are taking. But it’s the only option. The Sea Prayer is exactly that, a prayer to keep them safe at sea. As parents, they are powerless, their protection cannot deter great seas. But they need safety.

‘Because you, you are precious cargo, Marwan, the most precious there ever was.’

The final two pages, blank and harshly white, are where Hosseini declares what inspired this moving book.

‘Alan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach safety in Europe in September 2015.’

Yet, it wasn’t just this little boy. It was 4,176 other lives that were taken in that same year.

Overview

It is when I stop and think about that statistic that I really consider the world we live in today. Nobody should have to live in a place where they don’t feel safe. That little boy, like the many other little boys and girls deserve to know the good of the world like we do.

This book is easily the most beautiful in so many ways. Firstly, the illustrations are sublime. But it is so much more than that. It book shows life before the hell, it shows people’s strength and it teaches us all a lesson. We must care more about each other.

With that, I’m off to hug someone I care about because we are so lucky we have the lives we do.

Big love to you all. Xx

29 Comments

Filed under Book review, Books, New Books, Reading

I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

Hey Lovely People!

How are you all? I hope that September has treated you well and like me, you’re keeping warm from the rain outside. I noticed yesterday the leaves are starting to turn, clearly Autumn is upon us. Today I wanted to share with you one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read: I Am Malala. Wow. There aren’t enough words for this book. Malala Yousafzai is a name that everyone has heard of so I wanted to read her story and what an amazing story it was for me.

What’s it all about?

The book is written in five parts, covering various points in Malala’s life. Part One covers Malala’s life ‘Before the Taliban’. She describes her childhood home in Swat Valley where Malala, her father Ziauddin, her mother Toor Pekanbaru and her two younger brothers Khush and Atal, lived. Ziauddin’s father, Rohul Amin was an imam and a teacher. Ziauddin studied a Master’s in English at Jehanzeb College. Malala was therefore surrounded by great thinkers and educated minds. Malala is very honest in her narrative, they are a normal family and her brothers irritate her.

“I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.”

Her father opened the Khushal School with a partner Naeem, who had to leave himself due to financial problems. So, Ziauddin found a new partner, Hidayatullah, who helped him to bring the school into profit. This profit enabled them to open more schools in the area. Toor Pekai would bring any children who were in need to live with them and Ziauddin would give them free places in the school where they could learn and thrive.

Malala spends time in her narrative explaining the changes in political regimes in Pakistan, the first drone strikes in Pakistan in 2004, following 9/11 in America and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. I remember 9/11 in particular because it was my first day at secondary school. Just like Malala, many of us can relate to and remember events in history that have happened that have shaped our world today.

In Part Two, subtitled ‘The Valley of Death’, the narrative centres on the growing rise of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Swat. Back in 2006, Fazlullah began an ever increasingly popular radio broadcast where, initially advice was given on matters such as ritual ablution and drug abstinence. However, the focus of this changed to the condemnation of music and dancing. Finally, the instruction came that women were to stay in the home. To Malala, who loved to go to school with all the other girls, this was a complete travesty. Nevertheless, this did not stop her from getting her education. Malala was absolutely determined to go to school.

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.” Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

The war in North-West Pakistan was still raging and the return of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan has devastating results. As an activist for women’s rights, her return led to her assassination. This murder was just the start as the Taliban began to commit further murders. Ziauddin Yousafzai continued to speak out against such violence. His daughter, Malala, began to write a BBC Urdu blog under the pseudonym Gul Mukau, sharing tales of how life was during this time.

“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”

More woe descended upon Swat when after a Taliban edict in 2009, Malala’s school was forced to shut down. Malala and her family had no choice but to move to Shangla for the next three months.

Part Three is entitled ‘Three Girls, Three Bullets’. It is in this part where Malala describes her horrific ordeal with the Taliban.

“The Taliban could take our pens and books, but they couldn’t stop our minds from thinking.”

By 2009, the army have fought off the Taliban in Swat and the Yousafzai family return home. Malala’s school re-opens and she visits Islamabad with her school friends. Here she meets Major General Arthar Abbas and gives a public speech. Malala is used to giving regular public speeches with her father in various interviews. Each one bares the same message: criticism of the Taliban and the ineffectiveness of the army.

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

Mother Nature adds to the destruction of Swat, the 2010 Pakistan floods destroyed many buildings and left many people without food, clean water and electricity. Also, things are still very politically charged in Pakistan. CIA agent Raymond Davis murders two men and the Americans kill Bin Laden. The consequence of this is widespread mistrust of American influences in Pakistan by the public.

However, for Malala, it was like as usual. Malala began to win numerous prizes for her activism. She continues to speak out about a girls right to education. She appeared on Geo TV and visited the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Due to her courage at standing up for what she believes in, Malala started to receive death threats. This worried her parents immensely. In August 2012 when Zahid Khan was shot and killed, Ziauddin expected to be the next target. Malala also begins to worry that she too is a target but her focus is on her exams and she is desperate to study hard and do well.

“We were scared, but our fear was not as strong as our courage.”

However, what follows shocked me to my core, along with the rest of the world. After her Pakistan Studies exam on the 9th October, two men stop her bus and come aboard. They shout one thing: “Who is Malala?” Then three shots are fired.

“I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don’t be afraid — if you are afraid, you can’t move forward.”

Part Four is subtitled ‘Between Life and Death’. We learn that one bullet travelled from Malala’s left eye to her shoulder and her two friends, Shazia and Kainat were also injured. Thankfully, not fatally.

Ziauddin gave a speech with the Association of Private schools before rushing to the hospital to be with his daughter. Her mother was learning to read and rushed home to pray. Malala was taken by helicopter to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar where she was then airlifted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi. On the 15th October, Malala was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham aboard a United Arab Emirates jet. However, her father refused to come as the rest of the family could not travel without passports. She made the journey with her medical team, alone.

“I reassured my mother that it didn’t matter to me if my face was not symmetrical. Me, who had always cared about my appearance, how my hair looked! But when you see death, things change. “It doesn’t matter if I can’t smile or blink properly,” I told her. “I’m still me, Malala. The important thing is God has given me my life.”

Part Five is called ‘A Second Life’. Malala woke up in the Birmingham hospital on the 16th October. However, her thoughts were not of herself or her injuries. She was obsessed with the location of her father and the safety of her family. She knew full well that she and her family could not afford medical treatment. Finally the medical team answered her questions.

Malala received 8000 cards and many many presents. Her family arrived 9 days later to join her in her recovery. In November Malala underwent major surgery to repair her facial nerve. The following January she was discharged from hospital. In February she underwent further surgery to get a cochlear implant.

The story ends with her new life in Birmingham. She missed Swat and her friends terribly. Yet, she decided to continue her activism, to spread the word about the importance of education. She wants to become know for “the girl who fought for education” rather than “the girl who was shot by the Taliban”.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

Overview

This book was so inspiring, so shocking and everything in between. Education is a massive part of my life. I remember as a young girl going to school, never questioning it or even realising how lucky I was. Reading this book has made me appreciate my education so much more. As a teacher, I want to share this book with everyone. I’m not really into reading about political history but because this was in my lifetime, I felt I appreciated it more. Obviously, it is something that has been in the press a lot so I valued having Malala’s own words. This girl is so inspirational, thank goodness for her.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”

Finally, on a different note, today is the first day of Autumn. To celebrate, I’m launching a new swoosh at the bottom of every post. Hope you like it!

Big love all xxx

42 Comments

Filed under Book review, Books, Education, Reading

Christmas Eve

Hi everyone!

Happy Christmas Eve! I hope you’re all well and ready for the big day tomorrow. Christmas isn’t always a happy time for people. However, I hope everyone finds peace this festive period.

For me, Christmas is a time for family and close friends. The tree is up! The snowman is lighting the way. My dad is making sausage rolls as we speak. The last thing I needed to do is wish my wonderful followers a very Merry Christmas.

Also, I wanted to share 5 of my favourite quotes from a range of books for Christmas. Of course, you may have many of your own.

Firstly, Song of Years by Bess Streeter Aldrich. This one makes me feel quite warm and fuzzy!

“Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself around you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart…filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.”

Next is one from The Book Thief. This book has me in tears, I can’t deny that fact. This quote reminds me of the joy from simple things.

“It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”

I always find Dr Seuss humorous and fairly accurate. I can’t disagree again with his views on Christmas.

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. The Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Clement Clarke Moore is always quoted. I personally love this poem. I read it every Christmas Eve.

”Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

My final quote is rather witty and fairly accurate for myself personally. Being as my wrapping paper is covered in it this year as well as last, it seems apt that I leave this till last. Taken from Eloisa James’s Paris in Love.

“I don’t want the Christmas season the end, because it’s the only time I can legitimately indulge in on a particular addiction: glitter.”

I’m feeling so festive and warm inside. That could be the mulled wine talking!

So Merry Christmas my lovelies! I wish you all the very best. Have the most wonderful day. Make some magical memories. Remember those who can’t be sat at our tables this year. Let’s have hearts that are quite full.

Big love xx

17 Comments

Filed under Christmas

London

Hey everyone!

Just as I was going to bed last night, I heard about the terrible events in London. Thankfully, my friends in London are all safe. But there were some that did not make it home last night. Yet again, I am dumbfounded and a tiny bit broken. 

I’m struggling to find words again to comprehend or explain. None of us want to live in a world of fear, where ever we are situated. So again, I want to spread love and peace to you all. 


I was talking about this with a friend this morning. He helped me to see that there are more acts of kindness than acts of hate, we just don’t hear about them. 

So my focus today is this. Hold onto those little acts of kindness, make someone smile. Hold someone tightly and let them know how much they mean to you. Help a stranger. Do something for someone else. Together, we are stronger. 

Big love x

7 Comments

Filed under UK

Happy Birthday Blog!


Hey all! 

I hope you’re well. I’ve had a crazy busy week with the two English Literature GCSE exams so I missed the fact that it was my blogs 2nd birthday on the 25th. I’m only 2 days late…


I can’t believe I’ve been on here for two years now. Unbelievable. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. I’ve communicated with some fascinating people. Without you, my experience wouldn’t have been as amazing! 

I feel like a bit of a fraud… I don’t read as much as I used to and I definitely don’t bake as much as I used to. But, I blog when I can. I like to think my blog has become more than that anyway.  Thank you for being so accepting of that fact! I’m sorry I miss posts and discussions. I do try and catch up. The love and support from the blogging community is wonderful. With summer approaching, I will try and increase my time with you all. 

To celebrate this little birthday I’m currently reading Into The Water by Paula Hawkins. I’m very excited about this I have to say. LOVED The Girl on the Train so I have high hopes! My plan for this half term is to read as much as I can, preferably in the sunshine (if it stays). 


My (hopeful) reading list:

  • Finish Into The Water
  • The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan
  • Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  • Millions – Frank Cottrell Boyce (a work related read!) 

It’s small and humble, but realistic. I get really saddened because I’m usually too tired to read. I know that my aim of reading 100 books a year is slightly optimstic. I’ve only done it once out of two years. So, I think this list is a good way of not being overwhelmed or frustrated with myself. 

Thanks for sticking around for the past two years. Here’s to the future! 

Big love xx

51 Comments

Filed under Birthday, Book review

Love You, Manchester. 

Hey guys.

It is with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes that I write this post. I’m struggling with what is happening in the world. I don’t understand why we have such sadness. Naturally, I’m a ‘fixer’. I have a deep need within me to fix things, to make things better. Yet, today I can’t seem to do it. 

You will have probably heard on the news about the terrorist attack in Manchester. I’m utterly broken. That concert was full of innocent children and teenagers watching one of their idols.  I’m sure the majority of us can all relate to that. They were happy. Then everything changed in an instant. It’s funny, I tell my students to never write such clichés but here I am doing it myself. I can’t find the words. I don’t know what to say. I’m empty. 

Every attack we all feel: London, Paris, Manchester, anywhere in the world. It is wrong. It is heart breaking. But I really really struggle when it’s children; the epitome of innocence. 

Hate can not win. We are together. We must love more. I don’t have anyone to hold tonight, but if you do, hold them just that second longer. Because you can. 

Big love x

15 Comments

Filed under UK