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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. In her spare time she delivers emergency aid convoys for refugee families surviving in Calais and Dunkirk, and supports interfaith projects. She specialised in Women's Studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and Oxford University. The Boy at the Back of the Class is her first novel.
The children are once again front and centre of this author’s second book. But like multi-award winning The Boy at The Back of the Class, the foundations of the story are very dark indeed. In this case domestic violence and the murder of Aniyah and Noah’s beloved mother. But this is not a grim YA novel. it is a book from the perspective of ten-year-old Aniyah and written for children of the same age so you can be reassured that there is nothing gratuitous or explicit. Aniyah and Noah are in foster care with the remarkable Mrs Iwuchukwu, alongside the grumpy, manipulative teenage Sophie and Travis and Ben who are the same age as her. Aniya has always been fascinated by astrology and she believes that when special people die, they become shining stars in the heavens. When a new star is spotted and behaves in an unexpected way, she believes that this is her Mum and she makes it her mission to ensure that the public competition to name this amazing new star will recognise that truth. Even though Ben and Travis know what really happened to her Mum they are wonderful steadfast friends and they vow to help the mission and not let the awful Sophie ruin the plans. So the madcap adventure begins and every reader will be rooting for the children through one disaster and crisis after another. The children are beautifully depicted, and their relationship and their dialogue is natural and funny. The reader gets gradual hints from flashbacks of what really happened as realisation dawns on Aniya and the reader becomes all too aware of the emotional cost of living in a home soured by domestic violence. But this happens within a safe context. Aniya and Noah have found a haven and a future. Once again this author has given us a warm, funny and poignant read, with a thought provoking serious side, which is perfectly judged and accessible for its audience.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award 2019 | Winner the Blue Peter Book Awards 2019, Best Story category | The arrival of a new boy in class sparks a funny, moving and quietly powerful story for young readers. Our narrator – we only discover her name in the last chapter – is immediately intrigued by her new classmate, who doesn’t speak, or smile, and disappears at break times. She’s determined to become his friend and as she gets to know him learns that Ahmet is a refugee from Syria. Finding out that his family are lost somewhere in Europe she decides to help – something that exposes both the prejudice and generosity of those around her. The plotline is very lively – it includes some excellent comic scenes at Buckingham Palace – and Raúf manages to keep the story positive and uplifting while still illustrating the cruelty and bigotry that refugees face.