Book of the Week: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Book of the Week: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Article Lead - narrow1010214064gpgdvqimage.related.articleLeadNarrow.353x0.gpge5s.png1466236160207.jpg-300x0Every so often a book comes along that will stay with you. They have a character whose voice and story ring so clear, and you feel just a little bit different after having read it. Zana Fraillon’s novel for older readers, The Bone Sparrow, is one of these.

Nine year old Subhi’s voice comes through strongly from the very first page. He’s imagining a beautiful ocean so intently he can almost hear the waves. His big sister, Queeny, can’t hear them but his mother, Maá, can. Subhi calls it his ‘Night Sea,’ and believes it washes up treasures. Before long we realise that Subhi has never seen or heard the ocean for real – because he has spent his entire life behind a fence.

Subhi was born in an Australian immigration detention centre after his mother and sister fled their home country. Life behind the fence is tough, and sometimes seems to have more of the fear and violence they were trying to escape. One night when he can’t sleep and is wandering the camp, Subhi comes across a young girl – she has shoes, a backpack, a torch – she is from Outside.

Jimmie doesn’t feel complete after the loss of her mother. The strongest links she has left to her are the sparrow necklace she wears and a notebook of stories, handwritten by her mother and based on her family’s past. Living in a rural community, Jimmie doesn’t get to school all that often, and hasn’t learnt to read – leaving her mother’s stories out of reach. After they meet, Subhi, a voracious reader (although there’s not much to choose from in the centre) reads stories from the notebook aloud to Jimmie, night by night, one by one. When she meets Subhi, Jimmie forms a new connection and also strengthens one she thought was gone forever. As they share and savour each story, their friendship deepens. When life both inside and outside the camp reaches a breaking point, stories provide comfort – and healing.

Although it is certainly not graphic, The Bone Sparrow does not shy away from the darker, distressing issues. Early on Subhi and his best friend Eli play ‘Guess the Food’ with their unidentifiable brown mush. “Maá tells me to never to look too closely,” says Subhi, “and whenever I find flies or worms, she says I’m extra lucky because they give me protein.” Subhi’s eternal optimism, his imagination, the joy that he manages to find in even the smallest things (quite literally), is presented in stark contrast to the life he has been forced to lead. By the end of the book, both Subhi and Jimmie have had to show incredible bravery far beyond their years. It is a story that is as heart-warming as it is heartbreaking.

Zana FraillonAuthor Zana Fraillon, who lives in Melbourne, says in her Author’s Note that while The Bone Sparrow is fictional, it is “based on an all true reality.” Although the characters, events and places are made up “the policies which have put people like Subhi and his family in detention, and the conditions described, are not.”

This is a book that covers a range of important themes, such as friendship and family, grief and loss, hope and fear. As such, it will certainly find a place in classrooms and libraries all over the country, and we recommend it for older readers, aged 9 – 12 as it does deal with content that readers may find upsetting.

There are many important messages readers could take away from The Bone Sparrow, but the simplest one, as Zana herself says, is this: “the world we live in doesn’t have to be this way. There is always hope, even in the darkest of situations. Subhi talks about his ‘Someday’, and I think this is something we can all hold onto at different points in our lives…”

 

You can read more from our interview with Zana here, or click here to purchase a copy of The Bone Sparrow.

Related Articles

The Choices We Make: Review of The Monster Who Wasn't

Kids & Ya

13 August 2019

The Choices We Make: Review of The Monster Who Wasn't

Explosive, Inexplicable Weirdness: Review of Squidge Dibley Destroys the School by Mick Elliott

Kids & Ya

25 June 2019

Explosive, Inexplicable Weirdness: Review of Squidge Dibley Destroys the School by Mick Elliott

Wizards, Witches and Rebels: Read an extract from The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

Kids & Ya

12 June 2019

Wizards, Witches and Rebels: Read an extract from The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

Robot With a Heart: Read an extract from Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure by Shane Hegarty

Kids & Ya

4 June 2019

Robot With a Heart: Read an extract from Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure by Shane Hegarty

I’m Not Just a Robot!: Review of Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure by Shane Hegarty

Kids & Ya

4 June 2019

I’m Not Just a Robot!: Review of Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure by Shane Hegarty

A Mystery for the Curious and Brave: Read an extract from Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Kids & Ya

30 April 2019

A Mystery for the Curious and Brave: Read an extract from Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Wonderful, Eerie Mystery: Review of Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Kids & Ya

30 April 2019

Wonderful, Eerie Mystery: Review of Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Gorgeous Mother's Day Picture Book: Take a look inside There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Kids & Ya

5 April 2019

Gorgeous Mother's Day Picture Book: Take a look inside There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Beautiful Tribute to Mums of All Kinds: Review of There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

Kids & Ya

26 March 2019

Beautiful Tribute to Mums of All Kinds: Review of There's Only One Mum Like You by Jess Racklyeft

The Next Adventure: Review of Scorch Dragons by Amie Kaufman

Kids & Ya

19 March 2019

The Next Adventure: Review of Scorch Dragons by Amie Kaufman

Synopsis

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnCm04_fpq4[/embed]Subhi's imagination is as big as the ocean and and wise as the sky, but his world is much smaller: he's spent his whole life in an immigration detention centre. The Bone Sparrow is a powerful, heartbreaking, sometimes funny and ultimately uplifting hymn to freedom and love. Sometimes, at night, the dirt outside turns into a beautiful ocean. As red as the sun and as deep as the sky. I lie in my bed, Queeny's feet pushing up against my cheek, and listen to the waves lapping at the tent.Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. The Night Sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories.The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, and brings a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it, she relies on Subhi to unravel her own family's love songs and tragedies.Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfuKi8txtug[/embed] 

COMMENTS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *