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The Boy At the Back of the Class

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  6,857 ratings  ·  984 reviews
Told with humor and heart, 'THE BOY AT THE BACK OF THE CLASS' offers a child's perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn't always make sense.

There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.

He's eight years old (just like me), but he's very strange.
Paperback, 312 pages
Published July 12th 2018 by Hachette Children's Group
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Average rating 4.48  · 
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 ·  6,857 ratings  ·  984 reviews

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Unfortunately I have had to remove my rating for this book as I cannot continue to support a transphobic and ableist author:

I also acknowledge this in my recent unhaul video on my YouTube channel:
Mira Lee
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My 8 year-old son enjoyed this book so much that he wanted to write a review. To be honest, I was surprised when he picked it up at the bookstore and started reading - he usually prefers graphic novels or sillier books like Captain Underpants or HiLo. But he didn’t want to put this book down and pleaded with me to buy it. When I read the description, I couldn’t say no. Here is his review:

"I really liked this book because I never read a book about refugees before so that was new to me. I really l
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very topical novel, which addresses some difficult issues in a way which will help children understand them. With the refugee crisis a virtually nightly news story and many adults, and world leaders, showing low levels of tolerance; this shows the resilience of children to make up their own minds about things.

It begins, as the first chapter says, with an empty chair. It is the beginning of a new term and there is one spare place in the class – which is soon to be taken by a new boy; A
HP Saucerer
A warm, eloquent and thought-provoking story, beautifully told through the eyes of a child. Not since RJ Palacio’s Wonder has there been a book filled with as much hope. I was taken on such an emotional journey with this story, but then Rauf’s characters are so compelling, I was left with little choice. The last few chapters left me completely choked with my heart clenched and blinking away tears. If you’re looking for a book to restore your faith in humanity, call off the search, and find refug ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book. Like ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ this should be compulsory reading - for all ages. Stripping everything back to seeing events through the eyes of children is the perfect tool here. This highlights how much simplicity and humanity is missing in dealing with, in this case, refugee children, and also serves as an unpleasant reminder of how much humanity is lost through bureaucracy, politics, and growing up. But it’s also full of positivity and warmth, a fantastic achievement. D ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am so in love with this story. After I finished, it left huge smile on my face and my heart little bit bigger.

Everything changes for a group of nine year olds, when new boy comes to their class. As they find out later, Ahmet is Syrian refugee with heart-breaking experiences. They try to befriend him and help him as much as they can. And whoa, their adventures will become legendary.

It is such a nice and heartwarming story told from a perspective of 9 and 3/4 year old girl talking about very i
One day the chair in the back of the class is filled by a boy, Ahmet, and our MC decides to become friends.

I had this book in Dutch a few months, maybe longer, but couldn't get into it. Thankfully, one of the libraries finally added it in English to their collection. Of course I had to bring it home to see if this time I could read it. And well, I loved it. It was a beautiful written book with a very likeable character.

I just adored how our MC immediately decided to become friends with Ahmet an
Laura Gardner
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I sobbed through the last 20 pages of this #mglit book about four elementary kids opening their hearts to a new student in their class. I love how kids are so good at cutting through politics to get to the heart of an issue. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this beautiful story by #onjaliqrauf ; this would make a wonderful read aloud!
Ahmet is a refugee from Syria who has been separated from his family. He speaks Kurdish, but not English and some kids (and one teacher) in school are making him feel unwelcom
Fizah(Books tales by me)
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-read
Actual Rating 4.5
“Sometimes words hang around longer than people, even when you don’t want them to.”

This book warmed my heart and reminded me of Wonder in different ways. It talks about refugees, their struggles and their lives, in such a way which can be easily understood by kids. The author has done a really good job, in world-building. He told an important story which shows the real face of many societies without overburdening kids.

This story is told from a child narrative, who wants to befri
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
My 9 year old enjoyed this immensely and it inspired some great discussions
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My 9yo twins kindly got given copies of this book from school, to read during lockdown. I thought I’d read it alongside them, so I could ask them questions about it.

It’s the story of a group of school kids who are intrigued when they meet Ahmet, a new boy, who is also a refugee. These school kids have no idea what a refugee even is, and when they learn more about Ahmet’s story they are determined to help him.

Now, my 9yo daughter is a strong reader so I knew she could handle this book. I wasn’t s
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary, poc-mc, aoc, mg
I don't know what I expected going into this book, but it wasn't this! The Boy At The Back Of The Class is maybe one of the best middle grade novels I've ever read. It's charming and sweet, and honest and nuanced in how it portrays the refugee crisis and everything surrounding it. It's such a layered book written with so much skill and delicacy, I'm honestly blown away. I highly recommend reading this for everyone. ...more
When I was in the fourth grade, a new girl came to our class, a refugee from Lebanon. We didn’t understand quite what that meant, when we were first told, just as Alexa and her friends don’t quite understand either.

I remember asking her, when we were a little older, if she was happy living in the states, where there was no war. She told me that if the war ever stopped, she and her family would return, because that was their home, and they missed it.

I lost touch with her, but in my life, I met
Dec 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I understand the need for books about the refugee crisis and to encourage kids to be emphatic, I don't feel this was the book. The main character was so overreaching with her voice, trying to hard to be like a kid. There was no time to create characters- this are just what an adult thinks kids are like. There are so great quotes about refugees and their plight , with some good language for kids to understand. But I hope this will be a jumping off point for a better book to be written. ...more
Jessikah Hope
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade, 2018
Fantastic middle grade focusing on refugees with plenty of facts mixed in with some humour. An absolute stunner.
Jasmin Davis
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
It is interesting because I have read other reviews and descriptions of this book they label Ahmet as the main character and even though this book is a story about him, it was told through Tom his friend.

The book starts off with there being an empty seat at the back of the classroom and the main character Tom tells about all the children in his class. Then one day a child was in the empty seat at the back of the classroom with a red rucksack. Throughout the book we’re trying to figure out who th
Ris Sasaki
Unfortunately even though this book is extremely important and was really beautiful, I can't give a rating to it because of the author's attitude when it comes to trans people, especially trans women.
For more info about that you can go check Gavin's tweet :

But, apart from this terrible fact, when it comes to the book, I must say that my heart felt for every single sentence and for ahmed's life that unfortunately it's still the reality for a lot of childre
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Utterly magical and totally captivating from start to finish. LOVED it!
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Edit: I loved Onjali's books and was about to read her new one, but saw she had recently written an anti-trans speech for the awful org Women's Place UK. Her speech was misinformed and cruel, and suggested equal rights for trans people increases danger to cis women, which is statistically false. Gutted because part of the reason I love her writing is how beautifully she writes about kindness and acceptance.

This was especially the case with The Boy At The Back of the Class, which I think has done
Jun 03, 2020 rated it liked it
⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 ok stars

I read this with my 11 year old son, who’s views are included in this review.

Things we liked; not knowing the main character’s name, learning about refugees and discrimination.

Things we liked less; they seemed older than 9 years old in the way they talked, acted and travelled alone so much (to school, London) and the overly happy ending was too cheesy apparently.

I think the book dealt with refugees in a great child friendly way, it wasn’t overly upsetting, and handled discrimi
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautiful - every child (and adult) in the country should read this book - it is so incredibly important! This novel really cleverly tells the story from the point of view of 9 year old Alexa - and explains some very difficult issues perfectly for all to understand and shows how innocent eyes sometimes see the world better than tired adult eyes. There are so many important lessons in this book. Please read this book - whatever your age because it is simply wonderful.
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was really good and I really enjoyed it. I liked how he would go so far to be friends with Ahmeet.
Sophie Snowden
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
This book tells a truly wonderful story of a 9 year old boy, who makes friends with a new refugee boy in his class, Ahmet. It tells a beautiful story of how Alexa, whose name we discover in the very last pages of this story, and his/her friends try to help Ahmet find his family again. At first they have trouble making friends with him because he can't speak much English, but once they find ways to communicate, through the giving of sweet, the drawing of fruits and then through the translator who ...more
Told from the perspective of 9 year old Alexa, The Boy at the Back of the Class centres around the arrival of a young boy, Ahmet who is a Syrian refugee. Having lost his sister to the sea and no longer in contact with his parents, Ahmet is isolated and stigmatised by some members of the school including a member of staff (something that I thought was very good to put in).

Yet Alexa and her three friends have nothing but compassion for Ahmet and try their best to not only help him feel welcomed b
Aisha Ayoosh
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book centres on one of the huge global issues of our time: the refugee crisis. It does so with enormous sensitivity and even humour.

The author tackles people’s attitudes toward refugees throughout the book. This is mostly done via children relaying and querying what they have heard adults saying to them.

It is this questioning, and the conversations that follow, that the book brings to light the many views and opinions in society on this issue.

The children in this book trying to help Ahme
Dee Dee G
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lot of adults should read this book.
Emma Reads
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every single word in this novel was so thought out. You could just tell that the author was being very intentional with her writing. This story made me laugh at times; and made me cry at times. It was a very beautiful story about what true friendship and compassion is.
Sarah Gerard
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
An interesting perspective on how we treat and perceive others who are ‘different’ to us. The text is a nice introduction into teaching children about refugees and their lives. Whilst it doesn’t go into details, it touches upon events such as travelling away from family, living without family and horrendous living conditions that refugees face. The author writes exceptionally well, in a way that emotionally hooks the reader.

I think this is a particularly useful text to teach the concept of char
Katy Noyes
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tear-jerking KS2/3 refugee story that deserves a wide readership.

We are in need of as much compassion in the world right now as we can get. We all need to be able to see the bigger picture, see the world from the eyes and situations of others... and this is as true for children as for adults. Here is a book that doesn't whitewash some fairly upsetting details but combines them with a beautifully charming story of innocence and hope.

Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is
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Onjali Q. Rauf 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.

Her first novel, The Boy at the Back of the Class, has sold

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