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1001 refugeeboy
Added on 09th July 2020

Author Benjamin Zephaniah
First published 2001
Publisher Bloomsbury, London, UK

Identity and fairness
1001

The powerful, moving story of Alem shows how difficult life is when you're away from all you know and love.

Story

Alem is not safe. His mother and father are from two countries at war, Ethiopia and Eritrea, so he isn’t welcome in either place.

So Alem is excited to go to London with his father, until he wakes up to find him gone. Now Alem must find his way on his own in a strange country.

Why we chose it

Refugee Boy is an honest and moving young adult novel that reads like a true story. Often studied in schools, it helps young readers imagine what it would be like to start life in a new country and empathize with the challenges facing asylum seekers. Trail-blazing when it came out in 2001, it is now more relevant than ever.

Where it came from

Benjamin Zephaniah describes himself as a poet, writer, musician and naughty boy. He grew up in Birmingham and because of dyslexia left school aged 13 unable to read and write. He started performing poetry, often with a political edge, in his teens, and published his first book of poetry for children, Talking Turkeys, in 1995. Refugee Boy is his second novel for children.

Zephaniah is a powerful advocate for diversity in children’s books, arguing that it is vital for them to see authors, illustrators and story characters like themselves. He spends much of his time in China but continues working throughout Asia, Africa and South America and remains passionate about politics and poetry.

Where it went next

Refugee Boy won the 2002 Portsmouth Book Award in the Longer Novel category.

The book was adapted into a play by East African poet Lemn Sissay.

Associated stories

Zephaniah’s other novels for teens include Face and Gangsta Rap.

In the museum

Zephaniah chose to be photographed as Anansi the Spider for The Story Museum’s 26 Characters exhibition of favourite childhood story characters.

Added on 09th July 2020

Author Benjamin Zephaniah
First published 2001
Publisher Bloomsbury, London, UK

Identity and fairness
1001