The Boy At the Back of the Class

Onjali Q. Rauf, Pippa Curnick

The Boy At the Back of the Class
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The Boy At the Back of the Class

Onjali Q. Rauf, Pippa Curnick

There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.

He’s nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets - not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!

But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.

That’s where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we’ve come up with a plan…


The Boy at the Back of the Class is an engaging exploration of the refugee crisis through the eyes of a child. A group of students are determined to befriend the new boy in class, and when they learn he’s a ‘Refugee Kid’, they also decide that they’re going to help him, setting in motion a madcap and heartfelt adventure.

Author Onjali Q. Raúf is the founder and CEO of Making Herstory, an organisation which works to end the abuse and trafficking of women and girls. She brings her passion for social responsibility to this story which demonstrates the power of small actions to initiate larger change. In addition, Raúf initially conceals details about the book’s narrator (such as their name) which could be seen as a way for children to better imagine themselves into the story.

The Boy at the Back of the Class is reminiscent of Morris Gleitzman’s 1990 novel, Two Weeks with the Queen. It too uses humour to tackle a challenging and timely subject, and even features an attempted visit to the Queen! And while the story does contain sad and painful events, its emphasis on kindness and happy ending makes it a safe choice for sensitive readers. For ages 9-11.

Bronte Coates is the digital content coordinator and the Readings Prizes manager.

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