A Story to Warm Your Heart


“The Boy at the Back of the Class,” by Onjali Q. Raúf is a heartwarming story about one person’s encounter with a refugee boy and the inspiring story on how anyone can help a refugee. 

The story begins with an empty chair in the back of Mrs. Khan’s room. This chair has been empty ever since Dena left. One morning, the narrator (the story does not tell the gender or the name until much later in the story) and its three friends, Michael, Josie and Tom find that someone is in the chair! This is the new boy, Ahmet. Ahmet is very mysterious to the four friends, he doesn’t ever speak and never smiles.

After that the four friends give Ahmet many gifts, such as oranges with stickers and apples with stick figures drawn on. Ahmet smiles, for the first time! After that, their bond gets closer. 

However, this friendship is not easy. Being around Ahmet means the four of them have to witness the school bully playing lots of “pranks,” such as spilling beans on his gym bag and uniform. But, Ahmet insists that he is okay, because he has had to deal with meaner people before. Soon, Ahmet learns English and with the help of Ms. Hemsi, the translator, Ahmet tells the class about his past as a refugee. The four are shocked. Then, they hear that England, where they live, will be closing the gates for refugees in only nine days! 

They make a plan to help track down Ahmet’s parents and bring them to England before the gates close, but time’s ticking. Can they pull this off in time to help their friend?

I liked this book a lot. Reading it for the first time was a little stressful because I don’t usually read books that are about current events. However, I found this a great way to inform myself about real world issues in a way that didn’t scare me. 

I appreciate the innocence of this book, and I also appreciate a safe way to get up to date on the issues going on right now. I would highly recommend reading this book. 

This book focuses more on the power of friendship and the change one person can make which leaves you feeling inspired. 

At the end of the book, you may walk away feeling uplifted, while at the same time needing to cry a little. That’s how I felt after being thoroughly touched by this masterpiece. Please do yourself a favor by buying this book. In buying “The Boy at the Back of the Class,” you are supporting charities that help refugees and their families. It’s a win-win!