What kind of experience can change a person in four days? An experience of life or death? Deciding to trust someone or not? Questioning even those kind souls who help you? Surely, such an experience would strip away a child’s innocence. And what of becoming a refugee fleeing your own country for a safer place? Finding everything from life as you know it changed?
Escape from Aleppo is a timely novel that brings its reader into the still-waging Syrian war. Nadia’s story begins sharply as her family’s home is being bombed. In the frantic struggle and panic of getting to safety, Nadia is left behind by her family. She survives the blast, rescues the family cat and begins to make her way to the rallying point. Along the way, she meets an elderly man who offers to take her to the Turkish border where her father waits for her. It won’t be easy; soldiers and fighters from all sides are on the streets.
During the trip, Nadia changes as she witnesses how life has changed in her city and country. She begins to understand how many different ways the war is changing lives. Throughout the story, histories of Syria, the Middle East, and Islam are woven into the story to help the reader understand the present-day issues. The story is intense and sad, but Nadia discovers her inner strength as well as the importance of compassion and mercy.
This story is one of the most important books written for our time. Hopefully, it will help encourage more compassion and mercy in our own society.
I received an ARC of Escape from Aleppo at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Convention in November 2017 in St. Louis. Fortunately, my daughter chose the Children’s Book Award Luncheon for us to attend. As we selected a table, we were gifted this book and had the honor of the author sitting with us. She graciously signed our books and chatted with all of the teachers at our table. From our short meeting, I suspected the book would be impactful and important.
A couple of weeks later, I began to read the book as it had been a favorite from the convention. I brought it to school, hoping to steal a few minutes to read a few pages. One of my students, reluctant to read the book she’d chosen, wouldn’t stop distracting other students during study hall. After the fifth or sixth time of pleading with her to please read, she exclaimed “I can’t! I don’t like my book!” In exhausted desperation, I held up Escape from Aleppo and replied “Here! Read this!” She stomped to my desk and whisked the book from my hand. As she realized it was my book (complete with NCTE sticker as a bookmark), she looked at the front and then read the back. Within minutes, she was completed engrossed in the story. I allowed her to keep the book over the holidays so she could finish reading it. I fully expect a conversation with her, as well as the book to be passed around in my study hall next quarter.
Escape from Aleppo will be available January 2, 2018 via Simon & Schuster.