The Boy At the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf, illustrations by Pippa Curnick @hachettekids #bookreview

Happy Sunday everyone! Hope you’re all having a good weekend. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Onjali Rauf’s The Boy At The Back Of The Class.

I bought this early this year, on the recommendation of my eldest’s Year 5 teacher after I told her I’d read and enjoyed Wonder. I didn’t get round to reading it at the time but then discovered a week into this term that was the first Year 6 class read. So thanks to Miss Ainsworth for the recommendation.

The Blurb

Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

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. . .

With beautiful illustrations by Pippa Curnick

What Did I Think?

We all as adults have an opinion on immigration, but do kids? Primary school kids at that? How much are they exposed to what’s going on in the world? And how much does a parent’s opinion make a difference? The Boy At The Back Of The Class explores these and other questions around immigration.

The foursome of Josie, Michael, Tom and Alexa are a tight little unit when Ahmet arrives in their school. They’re all intrigued by this newcomer to their class and are drawn to him. As the story goes on, the group and the rest of their class get to know Ahmet and what he’s been through to get the UK.

I felt this was a realistic take on the wide ranging attitudes towards refugees and how those around can influence you. Children’s minds are impressionable, absorbing everything around them. They are also fierce and passionate when they care – as the group decide to help, their plans escalate…

Dotted throughout the story are some lovely illustrations to punctuate the story. This are place perfectly – sometimes illustrations /pictures don’t work as well on an electronic device but in this case, there was no problem at all.

The Boy At The Back Of The Class may be aimed at the 9 to 12 age range but I’d recommend it to any reader. It’s an easy read so to speak but thought provoking, told with a innocent and inquisitive voice. I devoured it in an afternoon, ending in tears.

Who Is Onjali Rauf?

Onjali Q. Raúf is the founder of Making Herstory, an organisation mobilising men, women and children from all walks of life to tackle the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond. She is also the founder of O’s Refugee Aid Team, which provides support for refugee families surviving in Calais and Dunkirk.

She is an award-winning and best-selling author of books for children that tackle the issues of today. Her titles include The Boy at the Back of the Class, The Star Outside My Window, The Night Bus Hero, and The Lion Above the Door.

Who Is Pippa Curnick?

Pippa Curnick grew up in rural Essex and studied at Camberwell College of Art. She graduated from the University of Derby with a First Class degree in illustration. Pippa’s picture book Lucie Goose was shortlisted for the Evening Standard’s Oscar’s First Book Prize. Her website is and you can follow her on Insta @pippa_curnick and on Twitter @PippaCurnick

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