Onjali Rauf is making a big stir in the world of Children’s literature: and for good cause. She’s the founder and CEO of Making Herstory, a non-profit organisation that is “working to end the abuse, enslavement and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond” as well as publishing four children’s books in two years.
Onjali Rauf published her first novel, The Boy at the Back of the Class, in 2018. It went on to be nominated for a whole host of awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Blue Peter Book Award for best story, and went on to win the 2019 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
The story follows Ahmet, a refugee from Syria, and the friends that he makes as he starts a new school and life in the UK.
Why is this book great for young readers?
Rauf has managed to write about refugees and racism in a way that is accessible for children. It’s not a big or daunting topic, but something that is approachable and easily understandable. She addresses a range of racist attitudes towards refugees, but she doesn’t point the blame at any individual. Instead, she hints that it’s a lack of understanding about the refugee crisis that influences a person’s perspective. Consequently, the book opens up the possibility to discuss refugees, where they come from and the difficulties that they face. More advanced readers might start to question how newspapers and the media help perpetuate a negative stereotype of asylum seekers.
Sounds a bit serious...
Yes, they are serious topics, but the characters are well written and likeable that it doesn’t seem as boring as all that. Onjali Rauf places these difficult conversations in everyday situations to make them easy to understand, and yet there is an element of fun in the book too… Including a rather exciting trip to Buckingham Palace!
Her latest book
Her latest book, The Night Bus Hero, tackles yet more social issues in the UK. This time, she takes a look at how people treat those who are homeless and the housing crisis in cities like London.
What makes this book unusual, however, is that it is told from the perspective of a bully. Hector has a long way to go before he can fully redeem himself for some of the ‘pranks’ that he has played on people. That doesn’t stop him, however, from making friends with the teacher’s pet and proving that he can turn out alright in the end.
Ideal Books to Read
These are exactly the books that teachers will be using in their KS2 classrooms over the next few years. They’re child-friendly and interesting, but also provide so many opportunities to talk about what students have read.
KS2 readers might benefit from reading this alongside an adult. either a teacher, parent, or book club leader. The language and content might not be too tricky to understand, the themes Rauf’s books are worth spending some time discussing.
KS3 and Beyond
While these are really great books for younger readers, some students in KS3 (or older) might feel they’re a bit childish. They’re clearly set in a primary school, which might be off-putting for older children. For older year groups, it might be worth instead looking at short extracts to discuss the themes and ideas, rather that reading the book as a whole class read.
While you’re here… why not check out our group lessons for KS2-4?
Carnegie Reading Group
An online reading group for KS3 and 4 students. Ideal during lockdown to keep students engaged in reading.
11+ Group Lessons
For students in years 5 and 6 to help prepare them for 11+ entrance exams and end of year tests.