Hi guys! It’s been far too long since I last posted here on SWB, adjusting to lockdown and working from home really took it out of me, but when Bethany reached out and asked if I was interested in taking part in the blog tour for When Stars Are Scattered I knew this would absolutely be the perfect review to return with. I think that it’s so important stories like Omar’s are told, now more than ever, so without further ado onto my review
Title: When Stars Are Scattered
Author: Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 2nd July 2020
This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review
About The Book…
Omar and his brother Hassan, two Somali boys, have spent a long time in the Dadaab refugee camp. Separated from their mother, they are looked after by a friendly stranger. Life in the camp isn’t always easy. The hunger is constant . . . but there’s football to look forward to, and now there’s a chance Omar will get to go to school . . .
With a heart-wrenching fairytale ending, this incredible true story is brought to life by Victoria’s stunning illustrations. This book perfectly depicts life in a refugee camp for 8-12 year olds.
What I Thought…
Before we even get started I feel I need to share that I’m not really a graphic novel reader so I’m not sure I’m really qualified to comment on the more technical aspects of the book, so I’ll mainly be focusing on the story itself. What I will say is that I thought the illustrations were beautiful and I think telling the story in this format definitely makes it very accessible to a lot of readers.
When Stars Are Scattered is the true story of Omar Mohamed’s time, with his younger brother, in the Kenyan Refugee camp known as Dadaab. The story is split into a number of parts, each covering a specific period of their lives at the camp.
I was so keen to read this book but at the same time a little unsure about what to expect, both because I’d never actually read a graphic novel but also because I know very little about the subject matter. What I found was a beautiful and moving story, not just of Omar and Hassan’s lives but also those of Fatuma, Jeri, Nimo and Maryam too. I also learnt an awful lot about what life if like in a refugee camp, far beyond what’s portrayed in a brief story on the news, or during Comic Relief. I knew logically that life in a refugee camp would be nowhere near as comfortable as my life but that didn’t stop the concept of ’empty days’ being heartbreaking.
I’m very conscious of the fact that this is Omar’s true story and so the people that feature are also real people and to discuss them as characters as I would in a ‘standard’ review would be disrespectful. I don’t want to take away from the impact of the book by sharing too much but I will say Maryam’s story in particular really struck me. I also wouldn’t be lying if I said reading the section with Omar’s realisation towards the end brought tears to my eyes.
I know the book couldn’t possibly have been a day by day account of Omar’s time at the camp, and that it is presented in an age appropriate manner, but at the same time it felt like a very real telling of his story. By that I mean it didn’t feel like it had been intentionally curated to give a particular perspective of life at camp or impression of Omar. There are parts in the book which are difficult to read, whether that’s discovering more about Jeri’s family as the years went on, or just some of Omar’s actions, which while I understand some of the feelings and frustrations that fueled them, don’t always paint him in the best light. At the same time we do see some more positive moments of his time in the camp. We see his friendships, the better times they had together despite the struggles. I think the fact he chose to include all of these elements, only make the book stronger, it feels very genuine.
I was very pleased to see the afterword in the book, after reading the book I felt very invested in Omar’s story so was very pleased to see how his life had been since the period covered by the main book, I’ll certainly be looking into Refugee Strong, the charity that Omar created.
I adored how accessible this book was for people of all ages. There’s a section of the media that loves to portray refugees in a negative way, and make assumptions about their ‘real’ motives for leaving their homes. When Stars Are Scattered portrays the realities of life in a refugee camp, I think it is the perfect book to introduce the realities of the situation, to encourage discussion and to challenge some of the damaging narratives that exist.
There are really not the words to express how this book made me feel, I learnt things, I smiled, I sobbed. The review I’ve attempted above doesn’t do When Stars Are Scattered justice although I’ve tried. I really think this book has such potential to help people truly appreciate what life is like for a refugee. It may be aimed at an older middle grade audience but I would encourage everybody to read it as an introduction and a starting point for discussion. Thank you so much to Bethany at Faber for bringing it to my attention and sharing a copy.
About The Authors…
Omar Mohamed spent his childhood at the Dadaab camp, after his father was killed and he was separated from his mother in Somalia. He now lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and works at a centre to help resettle other refugees. He is the founder of Refugee Strong, a non-profit organisation that empowers students living in refugee camps. He still works with the Dadaab camp and travels back there once a year.
Victoria Jamieson is the bestselling creator of the graphic novels Roller Girl and All’s Faire in Middle School. She received her BFA in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked as a children’s book designer before becoming a freelance illustrator.
Iman Geddy, the colourist for When Stars Are Scattered, is an Atlanta-based designer and illustrator who is passionate about using the graphic arts for social good.
Connect With Omar
Connect with Victoria
Want To Buy It?
As always if you’ve read the book let me know what you thought! If you’ve not read it yet will my review convince you to pick it up?