Despite the war moving closer to Azzi’s home, her life is very much going on as normal. Her father goes to work as a doctor, her mother makes clothes, her grandma weaves blankets and Azzi goes to school. But war is moving ever closer and whilst Azzi plays with her friends, just over the wall the army are marching. The war doesn’t bother Azzi until and one terrible evening when the phone rings and her life changes forever…
Azzi In Between tells the emotional story of a young girl who is forced to flee a country at war. Like so many displaced children, Azzi finds herself in a new country through none of her own choosing. Grabbing the few possessions that she and her family can, they flee in the night, making their way by road and sea to a new country. The journey is told in excellent detail; the hiding at police checkpoints, the scramble for a place on the boat and the long and cold days and nights at sea are all vividly portrayed. You can really sense the family's panic and fear as they make their way to what they hope will be a better life.
Azzi’s feelings and emotions in the narrative are typical of so many children who find themselves in her situation. She is distraught at having to leave her grandma behind, not knowing if she will ever see her again. She is confused at the foreign country that she finds herself in where everything is different. Then there is the apprehension and worry of starting at a new school where the teachers and children speak a language that she does not understand and they eat food that is unlike hers. There is a real sense that everything is just too overwhelming for her and that she could really just use a hug from grandma.
Luckily for Azzi, she finds comfort in a learning support assistant. They share a special bond as the assistant recalls how she also had to leave her country when she was younger and she too was separated from her loved ones. Azzi also finds support when she is befriend by a child her own age called Lucy who helps her find her feet in her new surroundings and slowly teaches her words and phrases so she can communicate. A wonderful ending sees Azzi able to reciprocate this kindness when a new boy arrives at the school from a different country.
Laid out in the format of a comic strip, the illustrations and story are far from funny. The colourful images of Azzi’s story are contrasted starkly by the the images of war that are rather foreboding in the colours of grey and black. The comic strip style presentation will appear to a wide range of readers.
As I read the book I immediately thought of the boat loads of refugees that are regularly on the news as they make their own journeys. I thought of all all those in refugee camps, all those on journeys whether it be by foot or vehicle and all those trying to cross borders simply in search of a better and safer life. Azzi and her family are some of the lucky ones. They set out on a journey full of hope of a fresh start and they ultimately find it. There are a few bumps along the way but it was definitely worth it.
Azzi In Between tells a very real story and for many the stories will not have happy endings. But in the case of Azzi’s family it is a wonderfully uplifting read full of hope and new possibilities and shows the strength and courage of the human spirit.
Recommended for 8+.