Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Bone Sparrow” as Want to Read:
The Bone Sparrow
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Bone Sparrow

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,624 ratings  ·  658 reviews
Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Bone Sparrow, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Eva I think this is either fiction or historical fiction. It is probably fiction because the events in the story were not an event that happened in the pa…moreI think this is either fiction or historical fiction. It is probably fiction because the events in the story were not an event that happened in the past, rather a collection of events that have happened at different times. (less)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,624 ratings  ·  658 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Bone Sparrow
Éimhear (A Little Haze)
"Coming here is a bit like waking up from a nightmare and then finding out that you aren't awake at all."

The Bone Sparrow is a middle grade story about a young boy named Subhi who was born and lives in an immigration detention centre somewhere in Australia. Although fictional, details about the daily life and treatment of the immigrants are based on reality. Because of all of this I wanted to read this and really wanted to like it too. But I couldn't find myself getting invested in the writi
Katie Ziegler (Life Between Words)
STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND GO READ THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW. I just finished it about half an hour ago and I’m reeling. Beautiful, poignant, enlightening, heartbreaking, and hopeful - this, THIS is why middle grade books should absolutely not be overlooked as worthy literature. This should sit right alongside other books shedding light on the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. This is the kind of book that helps all our hearts grow bigger - big enough to make sure that no one in this scary world ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is horrifying disturbing and alarming. Yet it is also a story of hope and love.
I really liked that both Jimmie and Subhi are trying to find out who they are by remembering people and stories from their families and the past.
I could not put tbis down... and read it whenever I had the chance. As an adult reading this, I think there is a responsibility we have to ensure that all people are treated in an humane and compassionate way, no matter how they come to our country... and no matte
“But if the world measures a refugee according to the worst story, we will always excuse human suffering, saying it is not yet as bad as someone else's.”

----Victoria Armour-Hileman

Zana Fraillon, an Australian author, has penned a heart breaking and thoroughly compelling tale about refugees in her latest book, The Bone Sparrow that is centered around a young refugee boy living his days with his mother and his elder sister in an Australian detention camp where he spends his days helping his orp
There are not enough stars to give “The Bone Sparrow.” Even a thousand would be insufficient.

Subhi, the main character, is a child born inside an Australian detention camp to a Burmese refugee. The way the story progresses is a work of art, with the reader taking the journey with Subhi as he grows to realize the only world he has ever known is not at all normal or fair. It’s a painful path to take with him. There are occasional chapters written in third person about the life of Jimmie, a girl fr
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing

This book was devastating and enlightening and delightful all at once. The story follows two very different young children, as they discover more of the world through their friendship with each other. From the moment I met Subhi, a young refugee born in an Australian detention centre, I knew that his story would be heartbreaking. And it definitely was.

If you want to learn more about the refugee situation and how asylum seek
Trigger warnings: this book follows the story of refugees in a detention centre, so...PTSD, mistreatment by guards, murder, hunger strikes, self harm, and a multitude of other things.

This book was veeeeeeeeeeery slow to start for me. The first...50-75 pages was a serious struggle and it reminded me a lot of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, seeing as it was narrated from the perspective of a ten year old who had very little understanding of the broader situation going on around him.

But then, wit
T.J. Burns
Wow! That was a difficult read. But I'm so glad I pushed through.

The Bone Sparrow is amazing -- tragic, heart-breaking, tear-jerking... yet hopeful, showing the power of friendship, family, love, story-telling, and remembering.

I definitely needed some time to process this book.

The Bone Sparrow is an amazing story -- I just couldn't take too much at once. I am definitely the target audience here. I know little about Burma or its ethnic groups, but I care deeply about the plight of refugees worl
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: carnegie
I was pleasantly surprised by this - I really really enjoyed it! This received four stars out of five from me and I thought it was an absolutely brilliant read.
It's set in an Australian refugee camp; it follows a boy named Subhi who lives there with his sister Queeny and his mother and all we know about their past so far is that Subhi has been born there so he's lived in the camp all his life and the two girls fled from their homeland far away. It focuses on imagination; it focuses on refugee li
Hazel (Stay Bookish)
YOU KNOW YOU'RE READING A BRILLIANTLY HEARTBREAKING BOOK WHEN YOU'RE SOBBING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. This is such a powerful book that needs to be read by EVERYONE for awareness of what's going on in refugee camps. ...more
Karen • The Book Return
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this review and more on my blog.
The Book Return BlogI received this book for free from Publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Subhi is born in a refugee in an interment camp. He has never seen the outside world. He has no books, no school, and not enough food, water, or clothes.

Every once in a while I stumble on a book that totally takes me by surprise. One that I haven't heard anything about. A b
Lisa Simmons
I wanted to like this book more than I did. Yes, I now have a much more vivid image of how wrong conditions in refugee camps can be (this one in Australia) and an awareness of more of the ethnic Burmese minorities. The last couple chapters were a dramatic ending that were exciting, sad and I didn't fully see coming.
But overall the pacing was slow and I mostly didn't connect with the characters (I did like Eli). Full disclosure -- I typically am turned off by characters who talk to an inanimate o
La La
4.5 on my blog. This book made me extremely emotional. It is three stories in one really. It is beautiful and fanciful in parts and cruelly realistic in others. It is skillfully wrought. My head and heart are swimming in feelings right now. Full blog review to follow. I will add the link when it is posted.

I was approved for an eARC, via Netgalley, in return for an honest review.
I may or may not have cried all the way through the ending. Please read this. It's such a wonderful story filled with the realities of the world ...more
I'm glad this book has been selling so well, because it's an important story, but I felt it was poorly executed. Readers in the audience demographic may be more forgiving than me. ...more
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
Eight year old Subhi survives behind within the wire compound of the detention centre, overcrowded bodies neglected under the parched Australian sun. Subhi is one child of thousands of men, women and children escaping their homeland and applying for asylum in Australia. Born within the compound, his family surviving the harrowing journey from Burma where his father is under political incarceration. Persecuted and malnourished, families are placed within the compound and abandoned by the Australi ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was really good and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it yet. ...more
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a slow pace reading. The bone sparrow touches my heart when the innocent main character which is subhi, who born in immigration detention and life behind the fences is all he has ever known until he meet jimmie.

A story about hope and love. It broke my heart when knowing that people who being held at detention camp will be taken everything from them, for example hearing aid and fake foot for those who misfortune. But one thing that i adore from this story that they never lose hope.

"We are in
One of the marks of a great children's book, I think, is a voice that can speak across generations and to any age group. 'The Bone Sparrow', I hope, will certainly be a book that does just that, and it really deserves to be remembered and cherished for a long, long time. It's an important, powerful little story, one that takes the complicated mess of politics and bureaucratic arguing, and whittles it all down to the simple questions: 'why is it illegal for people to try and save their families? ...more
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Bone Sparrow revolves around the life of Subhi, a refugee born in an Australian permanent detention centre. Having never stepped foot outside of the fence, Subhi has no idea what life could be like. No matter if he has never known a life behind he fences, his world is bigger than the fences. When he meets Jimmie, a young girl from the Outside who needs someone to read her late mother's stories, he offers to help her.

The Bone Sparrow is a captivating book. It brings light to a sit
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Bone Sparrow was a captivating book about life in an Australia Immigration Detention Centre. A boy named Subhi is a refugee born in the Centre and all that his life consisted of was being behind fences. He has an imagination larger than himself. Life in the Centre is dull and boring and the one thing that keeps everyone from giving up is the memories and stories from the past. Subhi doesn’t have any other memories than the Centre so he needs other peoples, to realise what life was and what i ...more
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful story, written very well and very moving. A timely story of refugees and the horrific treatment they receive in custody in the lands they go to hoping for an improvement in their lives. This is the story of a young boy of Burmese descent who was born in a detention centre, this is his misery filled life and a grim picture of life in a refugee camp. It is also the story of a young girl who lives near the centre, she is a character, a rebel and full of wildness and good humour ...more
Sophie Crane
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaway, history
This is an incredibly sad story about a group of Rohingya kept in a detention camp. The story is beautifully created and gave me an insight into the dreadful treatment of people kept captive when seeking asylum. The main character captures your heart, painting the stories from his culture and imagination around you. I would definitely recommend reading this beautiful book.
Vicki Antipodean Bookclub
“Jimmie wants to ask more. Wants to find out how they can help so that no one has to sew their lips together. Wants to know why they have been locked up for so long. Why no one is listening. Why it is illegal for people to try and save their families. Why it is illegal for people to want to live.”
Buckle in for a long one folks, you’ll see why.
Set in an Australian immigration detention centre, The Bone Sparrow is the story of 9 year old Subhi who was born in the camp after his mother and siste
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
The protagonist Subhi is part of the people of Burma. However, he was born into a refugee camp and has yet to see his beloved homeland. Subhi and his friends/family are contained in a small camp surrounded by razor wire, and brutal laws that are enforced by the Jackets. Subhi has a vast imagination and continuously pictures a world outside of the depressing camp. Soon, he comes along a girl named Jimmie who lives "outside". Jimmie has lost her mother, but begins to share her stories with Subhi. ...more
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very gripping and thrilling novel - I was almost always hooked.

Admittedly, it was somewhat slow moving at the beginning, but once you embraced the themes and allegories which this novel so beautifully creates, it becomes not remarkably dissimilar to a thriller. To anyone who wants to learn about the world and the horrendous conditions in which some of our species are kept in, this is a MUST READ. It is a real eye opener to the conditions and I would challenge anyone who contradicts me to being i
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Many people have compared this book to ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ and while I agree the subject of both books is touchy and eye-opening, I didn’t find this one to be as emotive as the boy in the striped pyjamas.

Despite this, I did feel attached to Subhi and the writing made me feel sympathy towards him. This book does help you to realise how much of a privileged you have. I just felt it took quite long to get into and was a bit boring at first.
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. This story is incredibly poignant, and moving. I cannot recommend it more highly.
Catherine  Pinkett
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diversity
Not sure how I can put into words at the moment. This book grips your heart.
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Wędrówka Nabu
  • The Weight of Water
  • Two Wolves
  • Noughts and Crosses (Stage Version)
  • Welcome to Nowhere
  • Lark
  • Running on the Roof of the World
  • When the Sky Falls
  • Apple and Rain
  • Detention
  • The Fall
  • The Emigrants
  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece
  • Black
  • Abomination
  • Face
  • Crow Country
  • Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Zana Fraillon was born in Melbourne, but spent her early childhood in San Francisco.

Zana has written two picture books for young children, a series for middle readers, and a novel for older readers based on research and accounts of survivors of the Forgotten Generation. She spent a year in China teaching English and now lives in Melbourne with her three sons, husband and two dogs.

When Zana isn't

Related Articles

  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
46 likes · 63 comments
“To those who refuse to be blinded by the glare, or deafened by the hush, who are brave enough to question, and curious enough to explore. To those who will not forget. You will make a difference. And to the rest of us, so that we may learn how.” 11 likes
More quotes…