Publication Date: 12 January 2017
Twelve-year-old Omar and his brothers and sisters were born and raised in the beautiful and bustling city of Bosra, Syria. Omar doesn’t care about politics – all he wants is to grow up to become a successful businessman who will take the world by storm. But when his clever older brother, Musa, gets mixed up with some young political activists, everything changes …
Before long, bombs are falling, people are dying, and Omar and his family have no choice but to flee their home with only what they can carry. Yet no matter how far they run, the shadow of war follows them – until they have no other choice than to attempt the dangerous journey to escape their homeland altogether. But where do you go when you can’t go home?
Sad, sensitive and provoking much soul searching, Welcome To Nowhere is an exploration of a child’s experience of the ongoing war in Syria and his search for a safe place to call home.
There are many things about this book that I loved; it begins with an explanation of why the civil war began in Syria, so that the reader understands the context for the story which follows. Elizabeth Laird provides more context at the end about how she researched the story, and the people she met while working in a refugee camp in Syria.
The humanity shown to Omar under the direst of circumstances was deeply moving, at a level that transcends borders and backgrounds. Warmth, humour and empathy shine through the darkness which the story is set in as Omar and his family make the treacherous journey to find safety.
We see Omar and his sibling’s hopes and dreams for the future, and I can only hope they were as rosy as the ending suggested. Reality of news reports don’t tend to depict such a happy ending for families fleeing warzones as Welcome To Nowhere does, but if we want children to imagine a better future, they have to believe it is possible.
This is a book that needs to be read. When I first read this book, our news reported ever growing numbers of Syrian refugees crossing Europe, yet it regularly failed to explain why. How many people can actually remember what started the civil war? While this is a fictional family, their story is reality for hundreds of thousands of people, and that thought fills me with tears. It’s a reality that, thankfully, we cannot equate to, but with the war in Ukraine still raging, millions more people have been displaced and are in need of a safe country to call home, even if just for a short while.
Never more have we needed a generation who value acceptance of difference, who are willing to look beyond the scaremongering headlines for the truth behind them, a generation who hold compassion, understanding and empathy as qualities to be valued highly. If this book does nothing more than create empathy with refugees from this generation of children reading it, then it will have done an amazing job.
If you would like to win a class set of Welcome To Nowhere for your school, head over to twitter to enter. UK only. Competition ends 11.59pm 27.06.2022.
Huge thanks to Macmillan for inviting me to take part in the blog Tour – do make sure you check out all of the other stops!
Elizabeth Laird’s new book, The Misunderstanding Of Charity Brown, publishes on 7th July 2022 in Hardback, and is available to pre-order now.
Inspired by award-winning author’s Elizabeth Laird’s own childhood growing up in post-war London, The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown is a classic coming-of-age story, perfect for fans of The Skylarks’ War and I Capture the Castle.
Charity Brown’s life is about to change – her family have been left a huge, rambling house by a mysterious benefactor, and her parents want to move in and throw open its doors to the needy.
Only recently back from hospital after months of isolation with polio, Charity is over-protected and lonely as the only child still at home. Her family are very religious – her sisters are called Faith and Hope, and her brother Ted is studying to be a preacher – so she’s both excited and nervous at the thought of sharing her family and new home with strangers.
It’s a recipe for confusion, joy and endless misunderstandings, including with the new neighbours, an Austrian family with a daughter just Charity’s age …