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Flying Over Water

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Twelve-year-old Noura Alwan's family is granted asylum in the United States, after spending two years in a Turkish refugee camp, having fled war-torn Aleppo. They land in Tampa, Florida, on January 30, 2017, just days after the president restricted entry into the US from nations with a Muslim majority population.

Twelve-year-old Jordyn Johnson is a record-breaking swimmer, but hasn't swum well since her mom had a miscarriage during one of her meets. Her family has volunteered to help the Alwan family through their church. She knows very few people of Arab descent or who practice Islam.

The girls' lives intersect at Bayshore Middle School where Jordyn serves as the Alwan children's school ambassador. Noura knows that her family is safe from the civil unrest in her home country, but is not prepared for the adversity she now faces on American soil. Jordyn is sympathetic to Noura's situation, but there are other members of their Florida community who see the refugees' presence to be a threat to their way of life.While the president's Muslim ban tests the resolve and faith of many, it is friendship that stands strong against fear and hatred.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published October 20, 2020

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About the author

Shannon Hitchcock

9 books49 followers
SHANNON HITCHCOCK grew up in rural North Carolina on a 100-acre farm. Her extended family and love of the south are integral to her stories. Shannon is the author of ONE TRUE WAY, (Scholastic 2018), RUBY LEE & ME, (Scholastic 2016), and the Crystal Kite Award-winning, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL. Shannon's picture book biography, OVERGROWN JACK was nominated for the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award. Her writing has been published in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Children’s Writer, and other magazines.

Shannon currently divides her time between Hendersonville, NC and Tampa, Florida.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 86 reviews
January 2, 2021
A book that truly puts a “human face” on the situation with the Syrian refugees. It also covers PTSD, grief recovery, and what true friendship is all about.
I would highly recommend this one for all middle-grade readers and teachers.
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,104 reviews129 followers
August 17, 2020
Richie’s Picks: FLYING OVER WATER by Shannon Hitchcock and N.H. Senzai, Scholastic Press, October 2020, 272p., ISBN: 978-1-338-61766-5

“Life can be bright in America
If you can fight in America
Life is all right in America
If you’re all-white in America”
-- from West Side Story (1961)

“Friday, January 27, 2017: President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that banned foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the country for 90 days, suspended entry to the country of all Syrian refugees indefinitely, and prohibited any other refugees from coming into the country for 120 days…

Sunday, January 29, 2017: A federal judge in New York granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction blocking the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports under President Trump’s new Muslim ban…

Thursday, February 9, 2017: Appeals Court refused to reinstate Trump’s Muslim ban…

Monday, March 6, 2017: Trump signs new Executive Order…

Sunday, September 24, 2017: President Trump signed the third version of his Muslim ban…

Thursday, June 26, 2018: In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s third Muslim ban...”
-- from ACLU Washington, “Timeline of the Muslim Ban”

NOURA January 30, 2017
“As we reached the doors, the rumble of engines increased. But it wasn’t the cars I saw, but a crowd of people standing outside. The noise was coming from them...shouting, yelling, and chanting.
What’s going on? I thought, inching closer to Ammar as we slipped through the doors. Dozens of people congregated outside, chanting and carrying signs I couldn’t understand. One read, KEEP YOUR ORANGE HANDS OFF OUR CONSTITUTION! and another, NO BAN, NO WALL.
‘Baba, what is happening?’ I asked.
Before he could answer me, a harried young man in a dark suit pressed his business card into Amani’s hand ‘I’m a lawyer. Did they have trouble getting through immigration?’
‘No.’ She shook her head. They were lucky.’
‘Call us if there are any problems.’ he said. ‘Lots of refugees are stranded in airports all across the country.
‘Why would we have problems?’ I asked Ammar, feeling my stomach churn.
‘They don’t want us here,’ he growled.
Don’t want us here? But we’d traveled thousands of miles to be here. If they didn’t want us, where would we go? Back home? Memories clashed in my mind...of buildings reduced to rubble, the boom of explosions, wailing sirens, children crying. We can’t go back there! A sharp pain snapped me back from the past as I pinched the soft skin near my wrist.”

JORDYN January 30, 2017
“The pain in Mom’s eyes had caused a flood of horrible memories about the best/worst day of my life. I had been chasing my dream to set a new state record for eleven-/twelve-year-olds in the 100 fly.
Once I dove into the pool, I was aware of only one thing--being first to the wall. My body moved in a wavelike motion--I was Ariel without the tail. I attacked the water with my arms, while my kicks propelled me faster than ever before. I felt invincible that day.
When I came up for air, Coach B was jumping around like Tigger--her short, spiked hair stood on end. Nobody had to tell me I’d set a new state record. I could feel it. My eyes scanned the bleachers for my parents. I knew they would be as excited as I was, but I didn’t see them. I searched the bleachers a second time. And a third. My parents would never leave such an important meet without telling me. Never. There had to be an emergency. I was shaking even before my friend Lea’s dad explained something terrible had happened. Something that was even more life-changing than my name on the scoreboard: JORDYN JOHNSON 56.49.
While I was breaking a state record, Mom had a miscarriage. I haven’t swum well since, and I don’t know how to fix my swimming--or my mom.”

This pair of troubled tween girls, raised on opposite ends of the planet, will come to know and support one another through their respective struggles. They meet when Jordyn Johnson is assigned to be Noura’s seventh-grade student ambassador at Tampa’s Bayshore Middle School.

Noura Alwan, her twin brother Ammar, and their parents are among the last to gain entry as the initial Muslim ban, issued by newly-inagurated President Trump, goes into effect. But they will suffer the hostility stirred up by his verbal attacks and executive orders targeting any and all of the Muslim faith.

Noura’s father had managed an award-winning hotel in Aleppo before the city was destroyed in the Syrian civil war. Since the destruction of the hotel, the Alwan family has spent years in a jam-packed Turkish refugee camp before finally gaining permission to immigrate to the United States. Now her father is going to be a busboy in an American hotel.

Bullying in middle school is bad enough for an ordinary kid. But adding a hijab and the prejudice driven by the foul-mouthed President makes Noura a visible target.

Meanwhile, Jordyn has started having panic attacks.

Noura and Ammar initially struggle to find a safe place at school to pray during lunch break. Thankfully, the school principal is a good guy who locates an unused equipment room they can use, as long as it is equally available to all students who want to use it.

This equipment room becomes central to the story. Transformation of the room by young adherents of various beliefs, as well as students just seeking a sanctuary, makes for community building and friendships. When the room is desecrated by anonymous vandals, it leads to positive student activism.

Narrated in alternating chapters by the two seventh grade girls, FLYING OVER WATER is a powerful, uplifting, and eye-opening tale. In addition to Trump, a number of other real people and events from the Spring of 2017 are part of the story. I highly recommend it for 9-14 year olds.

I hope that this dark chapter in American history is drawing to a close...

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
513 reviews306 followers
November 15, 2020
Review posted on Fafa's Book Corner!

Disclaimer: I received this E-ARC via Edelweiss+ and Qamar Blog Tours, as a part of the #FlyingOverWaterTour.

Trigger Warning(s): Islamophobia, mention of miscarriage, bullying, harassment, property vandalism, anxiety attacks, depression, and mention of war.

Rep: Noura and her family are Syrian Muslims. Noura has anxiety. Jordyn is a white Christian and has anxiety. Jordyn’s mother show signs of depression. Lea is Cuban. Joel is a white Jew. Amani is a Muslim.

My Thoughts Before Reading: I was so happy when I received the tour confirmation email! I am always happy to read about books written by Muslim authors with Muslim characters.

I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

What I Liked: I adored the rep! It was nice to read about all these characters from different backgrounds.

I really appreciated the adults! They were supportive and came through for the main characters. It’s always nice to read about adults that are important to the overall story.

I loved the friendship between Jordyn, Noura, and Ammar’s friendship! In the beginning Jordyn was mostly nice to Noura and Ammar on account off being their ambassador.

After that Noura and Jordyn started to bound when they were assigned a history project and their mothers started getting along. The girls also just start to connect with one-another. Relating to their own fears and working through them together.

Jordyn makes sure to insure that Ammar and Noura are comfortable at school. Going as far as standing up for the two of them. While that in-itself is the bare minimum, it is really hard to stand-up to Islamophobia.

I also really appreciated their history teacher and the students. They were a very well informed and diverse group. I especially liked Penny, Joel, and Lea.

Noura and Ammar’s relationship with one-another was so sweet! I loved that they supported each other and challenged the other to conquer their fears.

Noura’s family have fallen on some hard times. On top of the Islamophobia, adjusting to life in America hasn’t been easy. Luckily they have a community in the Mosque, Noura’s teacher and classmates, Jordyn and her family, and most importantly each other.

Jordyn’s relationship with her parents is a bit strained. Her father spends most of the time working, and her mother never leaves the house. Jordyn herself can’t bring herself to swim.

Making friends with the Alwan family helps that. Jordyn’s mother gets excited teaching Noura’s mother English. In return Noura’s mother teaches Jordyn’s mom how to cook some Syrian food.

I loved the Islam rep! It was positive and portrayed in a sensitive light, considering when the novel takes place. I liked how Noura was able to build a supportive community in her school, and even arranged for a Prayer room for everybody.

My Criticism(s): Absolutely nothing!

Conclusion: Overall I enjoyed Flying Over Water! I highly recommend if you are looking for novels with Muslim rep.
Profile Image for Carmen Imes.
Author 9 books404 followers
September 7, 2022
This is a lovely story! I was already getting choked up at the halfway point.
I love the way the authors wove so many important themes together -- immigration and the refugee experience, recent attitudes toward immigration, current events (the Muslim ban, the Charlottesville rally, etc), grief and loss, anxiety, PTSD, therapy and mental wellness, and friendship. The story includes lots of hard stuff but it's laced with hope and redemption.
Well worth reading!
Profile Image for Ris Sasaki.
991 reviews166 followers
May 26, 2021
A really important book especially for middle graders to have a grasp of what the refugee crisis in Syria is about and how it feels like to be displaced from your home country and lose everything and everyone that you knew about.

It's really sad to know how little is taught in american schools about world history and current events due to their educational system.
Hopefully with books like these not only children but also adults have a grasp of history and current events that unfortunately are STILL happening in our world right now.
Profile Image for Wardah.
847 reviews170 followers
April 5, 2021
The last book I read at March and this one is definitely beautiful. I love how realistic it is. Such a beautiful story about overcoming fear and difference. And of course about finding belonging. This is such an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Reading Relish.
390 reviews32 followers
November 11, 2021
THIS WAS SO GOOD!!! Such a powerful middle grade book!!!


Why aren’t more people talking about this book??? This was amazing!!! I found myself laughing, gasping, and tearing up multiple times. I loved watching Nourah and Jordyn’s friendship bloom and help each other when they needed each other. I also loved the authors’ notes at the end, reading about how the authors got inspiration for many of the scenes in the book.

I recommend this book to EVERYONE.
Profile Image for prutha.
126 reviews53 followers
October 22, 2020
Read this review with many others on my blog

This is a masterpiece and a very, very important book that I urge you all to read.

This book is definitely one of the top ten books I read this year and it convinced me that Middle Grade is in fact, disguised philosophy. Don’t agree with me? Maybe the quotes I share might convince you.

Flying Over Water is a middle-grade novel that follows two main characters: Noura, a Syrian immigrant who travels to America along with her family for a second chance after the Syrian civil war, and Jordyn, an American girl who hasn’t swum ever since her mother had a miscarriage during one of her meets.

Jordyn’s mother offers to help Noura’s family to settle in America and Jordyn is tasked to help Noura and her brother Ammar around the new community. Even tho both Jordyn and Noura are very different, their friendship gets stronger day by day.

Noura and her family face a lot of Islamophobia and prejudice in America, where they thought they finally might have a happy life after having to go through many tough times.

"I thought alien was a weird word. It reminded me of little green men from Mars, rather than refugees fleeing for their lives."

This book was amazing. It had a lot of diversity, lots of heartwarming moments and it was especially interesting reading the story in two completely different POVs, written by two different authors.

I learnt so much about the lives of refugees and immigrants, how difficult they are and the prejudice they face and how traumatizing hate and war can be.

Even tho this was a Middle-Grade novel, it deals with very important topics like mental health, war, racism etc.

Now to some of my favourite and extremely philosophical quotes from Flying Over Water!

-"Sometimes being a human is the hardest thing of all"

-"It’s better not to think too much about the past, but to be grateful we have a second chance"

-"When you divide the unity and strength of people, you can destroy them because they are too busy fighting one another."

-"It bothered me that a group of people had to march on the street to demand that their very lives mattered."

-"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

Moreover, I found another book which I won’t stop screaming about until y’all read it :)

Representation: Syrian Muslim MC with PTSD, MC with Anxiety, side Cuban character, side Indian character, many side characters of colour.

Trigger Warnings: Depictions of war, loss of loved ones due to war, Islamophobia, racism, prejudice, miscarriage.

I received an ARC in exchange for a spot on the Flying Over Water Tour. This did not impact my review in any way. The quotes used are subject to change in the final printing
Profile Image for Nicole.
511 reviews38 followers
April 21, 2021
I don’t know what to say about this book. While I loved the representation, this book read like someone grabbed headlines from 2017 and haphazardly threw in some characters with some story beats.
35 reviews
February 1, 2021
Shannon Hitchcock knows how to seamlessly represent her characters as humans who can and should coexist. Highly recommend this book!!
Profile Image for Sara.
115 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2022
I like how this novel was cowritten and the 2 voices really incorporate real people's stories.
4 reviews1 follower
December 17, 2021
I very mush like it noura and her family moved to a new state and she got a letter from Jordan who she didn't know at the time but now we knows is like her best freind.a lot of things go wrong and they have to work through it with ther other Friends. I would recommend this book to a lot of kids and people I know because it goes from Jordan to noura and back !
Profile Image for Kirin.
486 reviews30 followers
January 15, 2021
This middle grades, upper elementary book is a character driven contemporary story of two friends with their own fears coming together: one a native of Tampa, the other one a refugee from Syria arriving in the US on the day Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ goes in to effect. In 272 pages of alternating narratives, two 12 year old girls find strength and kindness in themselves, in each other, and in many around them. Islamaphobia is focused on in the story, but the inclusion of diversity, Black Lives Matter, anti semitism, mental health, social justice, and US immigration makes the book relatable to everyone and interesting to explore. The book is remarkably similar to another book published this year, A Galaxy of Sea Stars, and I wish I had not read them so close together. Both are well done, and I honestly don’t know if one is better than the other, but space them out so you don’t find yourself comparing them. I got my copy from Scholastic, and I’m always happy when the school market shows accurate strong Muslims, so if you see this in the book order forms that come home or book fairs and are wondering if you should get it, do it, it is worth your time and your child’s, inshaAllah.


Noura’s family has escaped Syria and had been living in Turkey when they learn they have been granted assylum in Tampa, Florida, USA. When the book opens Noura is practicing controlling her fear of water as the plane flies over the ocean. Her twin brother, Ammar, her parents and baby brother Ismail are greeted with protesters when they land. Whisked away by a church group and local Muslims, the family is given support and assistance in a new country.

One of the members in the church group that have volunteered to help the Alwan family, is Jordyn and her mother. Jordyn is going to be Noura and Ammar’s Student Ambassador at Bayshore Middle School and Jordyn’s mom has offered to help Noura’s mom learn English. Jordyn is the state title holder in swimming, but while she was swimming her fastest race, her mom was having a miscarriage, and both have a lot to work through to function as they once did.

The two girls immediately hit it off, and the families follow. Noura’s love of birds is mirrored in Jordyn’s love of water and fish, and both have their fears and mental health coping skills to bond and confide in with one another about. The girls and Ammar are assigned a Social Studies assignment and Jordyn getting close to the Alwans is not well received by Jordyn’s close friend Bailey who’s brother was killed while fighting in Afghanistan. Other classmates also show bigotry and with the real incidents of 2017 incorporated in to the story of a mosque being burned, Jewish cemeteries being ransacked, pedestrians being run-over in France, and more, the Alwans are questioning their new country, and their friends are wondering how America has gotten this way.

While praying at school Ammar and Noura are constantly harassed no matter where they relocate to, and finally ask the administration if there is a safe place they can worship. Florida law says a space can be set aside for all faiths to have the same access as clubs do (I’m overly simplifying), and many different and diverse students come together to turn an old closet into a place of peace, worship, freedom, reflection, and meditation. As expected, the space is destroyed, the culprits never caught and complaints to the school board mount. The ultimate climax involves the kids speaking up about what the space means to them, and waiting to see what the final school board vote is. Along the way there are smaller victories, such as Jordyn teaching Noura to swim, Ammar speaking about the white helmets saving him, and Jordyn and her mother working together to heal.


I love that the Muslim Ban is discussed in a way that it is personal, not political. By highlighting a fictional manifestation of refugees affected by such policy, even people that don’t know anyone affected, I’m certain would feel a connection to a concept and its affects in a very real way. I love that N.H. Senzai was brought on to make the story’s Islamic elements ring true and that the prayer room, a very American Muslim construct ends up being at the center of the story. Noura and her family eat halal, wear hijab, and pray. I enjoyed that other diversity and acceptance issues were carried in to the story by the supporting cast including a Jewish boy, a Cuban girl, a Hindu and more. Overall the book is well written and solid, the mental health and coping skills are so beautifully normalized. Both girls have sought help and found success with it, and both are brave in addressing their fears and opening up about them to those around them. It really is empowering.

The end of the book features more information about the real Syrian children heroes mentioned in the book: the ten year old model builder Muhammad Qutaish, the Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, and education activist Muzoon Almellehan. There is also information about the two authors and how their collaboration came to be.

I would love to not compare this book to A Galaxy of Sea Stars, but just to highlight a few of the near exact similarities would prove my point that had these two books not been published the same year, one would definitely be accused of copying the other. Both feature middle school girls, both have a refugee arriving to a coastal town with their families (one Afghan one Syrian), both have the American born protagonist loving water, being an only child, and have mothers going through their own life changing crisis. Both have two side kick friends, one that is very anti Muslim and one that is on the fence. Neither have a completely resolving happy ending with the three girls’ friendship and there is doubt in both books of friend’s possible involvement of hate motivated actions. Both feature a side character’s brother being killed in conflict in a Muslim majority country. Both feature an amazing teacher that is very involved in opening minds and facilitating growth regarding prejudice. Both feature PTSD issues, and fear of water issues as well as a major hobby being destroyed by an angry classmate character. The ‘ethnic mom’ in both stories is rather one dimensional but loves to cook and feed everyone. Sure they also have their differences, one alternates point of view and is tied closely to current real events, but both have remarkably similar themes of friendship, overcoming fear, and finding similarities over differences.


Some mention of violence as the Alwans recall the destruction and fear of war in Syria. Mention of a cartoon drawn by a classmate mocking Jordyn getting her first bra, but it isn’t detailed. The swimming coach is a lesbian and she mentions her wife at one point.


I would definitely encourage elementary teachers to have this book on their shelves and encourage students to read it and respond. I think it would be too predictable for middle schoolers to read in a critical manner, however, they would probably enjoy it as a light read. With Covid 19 still keeping me from starting up book clubs again, I have been asked to consider helping put together some side reading lists/suggestions, and this book would definitely find its way on that.

Happy Reading!
Profile Image for Dotty.
1,186 reviews27 followers
October 18, 2020
Jordyn and Noura are navigating life and its myriad heartaches, challenges, and joys. Told from the point of view of the two main characters and their families, the authors have given us a window and a mirror into lives guided by religious practices and buffeted by anxiety, microaggressions, prejudice and world events. But don’t think this book is a downer! The inspiring characters inspire bring you into their lives as you cheer for them, weep with them, and laugh alongside them..

Many books focus on one issue that consumes the characters and the plot. There is value in that, and I have to admit there was a point that I began to question all the different themes and challenges woven into the plot of “Flying Over Water.” Were the writers trying to do too much? Then I thought of students at my school and people in my personal life. Daily, everyone walks through a variety of experiences, and Hitchcock and Senzai have beautifully captured the sometimes complicated ups and downs of life without overwhelming the reader. The multi-dimensional characters and the flow of events mimic life and inspired me to consider how we all juggle people and events in our lives.

Good writing can also push the reader to explore beyond the text. There are new foods to taste and anxiety-reducing practices to try. Hitchcock and Senzai sent me on intriguing explorations of swimmers with challenges which led to adding titles to my next reads list.

I can’t wait to share this book with students and teachers. I have a list of people who have enjoyed Hitchcock’s “One True Way” and Senzai’s “Escape from Aleppo,” and they will be thrilled to read this collaborative novel. “Flying Over Water” needs to be in every library and in the hands of so many YA and adult readers.
Profile Image for Evidently Bookish.
51 reviews15 followers
October 21, 2020
actual rating: 3.5 rounded up to 4

This book is a short and sweet but equally moving look at the trials faced by a family of Syrian refugees when they move to the United States. I feel like the first thing I need to say about this book is that despite some of its tough subject matter, it was so much more wholesome than I had expected – there was even a moment or two that drew some moisture to my eyes. What I hadn’t expected and what I’m endlessly grateful for is the incredibly accurate mental health representation.

Both main characters suffer from anxiety to different degrees throughout the novel and as an anxiety sufferer myself, it’s rare that I can read anxiety representation in a book and come away feeling so understood. Not only that but the authors did an excellent job casting anxiety in a positive way – both characters receive help from professionals and unfettered support from their family, friends and community. This is a theme throughout the book, there is so much support and positivity seeped into these pages. While the book indeed discusses hate and incorporates real life terrorist events into it’s narrative, it never truly feels sombre or hopeless.

You can find the rest of my review on my blog here
Profile Image for Maryam Mallick.
88 reviews3 followers
April 2, 2021
A every heart warming story of 2 friends.

Flying over water

Im a gliding fish,
And you are a bird.
We met flying over water.
When the stroms came,
You taught me to breathe,
And I taught you to float.
Im a gliding fish,
And you are bird.
We met flying over water.
Worse stroms may come,
But I will breathe,
And you will float,
Im a gliding fish,
And you are a bird.
We met flying over water.
Profile Image for Steve T..
1,341 reviews
December 11, 2021
What it's about: After losing their home, possessions, business, and friends fleeing from Syria, 12 year old Noura and her family are fortunate enough to get placed out of their refugee camp and into a living situation in America. But the day they land, January 30, 2017, is the day that U.S. President Donald Trump put into place a "Muslim Ban", which threatens Noura's family before they are even on U.S. soil.

Jordyn, a 12 year old swimming star, is glad her family is helping a refugee family get settled and acclimated in their Florida community. But Jordyn's family also dealing with a terrible tragedy that has affected each member in different ways. As Jordyn gets to know Noura's family, she finds her world view being challenged, particularly as bigotry rears its head in her community - and even at her school.

These two girls form a friendship that will help them both weather the tragedies that have befallen them. Together, they find they are stronger as they learn from each other and deal with crises and conflicts neither could have foreseen.

What I thought: This book deals with so many types of issues in an engaging way that readers - from middle grades up - can learn from. Immigration, multiple types of loss, anxiety, depression, racism - all have threads that run through this story in realistic ways. While there are difficulties the characters must deal with, this is ultimately a story with hope and love at its center, which helps the characters find answers and connections with their families and each other.

Why my chosen shelves: Triggers: Death, racism. Each of the MCs are dealing with a death; this drives anxiety in both of them in different manifestations, as well as giving one of the other family members depression that starts being treated by a therapist. In addition to the Muslim MCs, there are also some other ethnicities and religions within the story. One story thread deals with the MC trying to find a place to do daily prayers during school hours. This also ties in to some of the incidents of racism. The MCs are in middle school. One central plotline is about various racist acts that come up throughout the story, not only toward Muslims. This sometimes splits into specific issues with the Muslim ban, as well as a political attempt to subvert the MC's daily prayer situation (when there are objections to there being such a space within a school, an issue that gets taken to the school board; there is also some messaging from the town mayor decrying a particular racist incident). Each of the authors wrote the girl they most closely resemble, capturing some of their personal experiences in this story.

Why I rated it like I did: This is a book that every middle school library should have on its shelves. This book hits on so many levels. It's an incredibly well-written and engaging story that readers will enjoy. It deftly deals with several important types of issues that readers will probably relate to, and definitely can learn from - being a refugee; dealing with racism; asking for help when you need it; having a trusted adult to talk to; seeking therapy; being an upstander rather than a bystander; dealing with death and loss. All of these issues are woven together skillfully in a very accessible story. The chapters alternate between the two MCs' perspectives, potentially providing readers with both a window and a mirror, and hopefully a sliding glass door into the experiences of refugees.
Profile Image for Nabila S..
176 reviews34 followers
October 24, 2020
Flying over water is one of the best middle-grade books I’ve read so far. It follows Noura, a Syrian refugee trying to adjust to life in America, and Jordyn, a girl who’s facing anxiety and unable to swim well as she relives the trauma of her mom experiencing a miscarriage during the time of one of her swim meets every time she enters the water.

This book served as a reminder about why I love middle-grade books so much. I haven’t ever related to any Muslim character as much as I did to Noura which is saying something. The characters were very well fleshed out. I adored the focus on friendships and the bonds all the characters formed with each other. I shed some tears quite a few times! I cannot imagine living in a war-torn country and love how brave the Alwan family was. The book did not shy away from portraying how destructive wars can be but at the same time, it handled the topics of differences, diversity, war, islamophobia, and hate crimes with sensitivity which was a breath of fresh air. None of the characters discredited each other’s problems although everyone was facing different ones.

I applaud how the book handled Bailey’s brother, Byran’s death (he died serving in Afghanistan) and that Noura wasn’t mean about it at all. Still, it was unsettling reading him mentioned as a hero. I wish we had more of a conclusion to Bailey and Nick’s stories.

To sum up, it was a beautiful book and I highly recommend picking it up!


Here are some of my favourite quotes:

“A memory tickled my mind, of feeding the caged singing birds in baba’s hotel in Aleppo. Was this what it felt like to be a bird? To escape your cage and have the freedom to travel anywhere, at any time your heart desired?”
“I thought alien was a strange word. It reminded me of little green men from Mars, rather than refugees fleeing for their lives.”
“My scars were on the inside, where they were easier to hide-I was glad about that.”
“It’s easier to ignore current events when they don’t personally affect you…or your family.”
“I need you to be brave like Yusra.”…”I am tired of always having to be brave.”
“When you divide the unity and strength of a people, you can destroy them because they are too busy fighting on another.”
“…so he traveled to New York to convince the Americans they needed a statue, and when they said yes, the design of a Muslim woman became Lady Liberty.”
“Remember: ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Thanks to Qamar Blog Tours for providing me with an e-arc!
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.2k reviews277 followers
November 9, 2020
Twelve-year-old Noura Alwan and her family arrive in Tampa, Florida where they've been granted asylum right on the heels of the executive ban against Muslim travel in early 2017. They've left behind all that is familiar in Aleppo, Syria for a stay in a refugee camp in Turkey, and now have settled in the United States even though Noura's mother would have preferred that they move to Germany where other members have her family have fled. Noura's transition is eased by the presence of Jordyn, a classmate who has agreed to serve as her ambassador at Bayshore Middle School. Jordyn is kind and caring, but she is also carrying a heavy burden of guilt after her mother's miscarriage. Her guilt spirals into high anxiety about her swimming and her academics, and Noura is able to help her deal with those to some extent with breathing exercises. Jordyn also gets help through therapy, and the girls' friendship grows slowly. Noura is deathly afraid of water, and Jordyn teaches her to swim. The fact that both girls help each other helps the book avoid a missionary approach to those who are new to the county since they both benefit from the friendship. Things aren't easy for the family. While many of their neighbors are welcoming, others are not, and there is violence at a nearby mosque and destruction of a room in their school designated for prayers and meditation. Although the room originally was intended to provide Noura and her twin brother, Ammar, with a place to pray, other classmates join them, making the room a sanctuary and a place of acceptance. Readers will appreciate the alternating perspectives of Noura and Jordyn as well as the lessons taught by Mr. Fowler, their social studies teacher, as he seeks to bring history alive and raise his students' awareness about xenophobia and standing up for their First Amendment rights. The depiction of the students who aren't so welcoming to Noura and Ammar is accurate as some simply fear or shun anything different while others such as Jordyn's friend Bailey are uncomfortable embracing someone whom they consider to be the enemy because of their own losses. This book does a fine job of describing immigration from the perspectives of an insider and an outsider, and will leave readers thinking about their own actions or reactions to the arrival of someone from another country. I'm a sucker for books with strong teachers who aren't afraid to tackle challenging topics with their students and who encourage their charges to think for themselves, and I wanted to cheer during the School Board meeting.
Profile Image for Rosi Hollinbeck.
139 reviews10 followers
November 2, 2020
Shannon Hitchcock and N. H. Senzai have written a wonderful book, told from the points of view of two 7th-grade girls, one a native-born American girl, the other a new immigrant, a Muslim girl whose family has come from a Syrian refugee camp. Noura and her twin brother, Ammar, arrive in Tampa Bay, Florida, with their parents and little brother, Ismail. Noura is terrified of water, so flying over so much water was really, really hard for her. They are met at the airport by the news that the president has put in a Muslim ban, but there are plenty of people there to help them. At their apartment, they meet Jordyn, a very tall blond girl who tells Noura she will be her student ambassador and will help her navigate around school and learn to be more comfortable. While there are a lot of nice kids at the school, there are a couple of real trouble makers, kids who have learned to hate and make that hate known. Noura and Ammar are harassed by a some students when they are trying to find a quiet place for their daily prayers. They request a place for prayers from the principal, and are given the use of an old storage room. The custodian cleans it out, and several of the kids decorate it. It becomes a center for kids of many faiths who want to pray or meditate or just have a safe, quiet place. Jordyn, who seems to have a perfect life, has problems of her own. Her mother, who had a recent miscarriage, hasn’t been herself, and Jordyn has a secret that makes her feel really guilty. It causes her to start having panic attacks, and she blows one of her swimming competitions. The harassment at school escalates, and some terrible things happen. Can the kids pull together and help each other overcome all that they face?

This is a terrific book that is incredibly timely for youngsters today. It is beautifully written and very compelling. The two points of view work really well for this story. The voices are distinctive and each girl is a rich and complex character. In fact, all the characters are fully-formed and realistic. This would be a great read-aloud in middle-grade classes and a wonderful way to start important discussions. It is such a lovely story, it deserves readership well beyond its intended middle-grade audience. We can all learn from this powerful story. I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Laura Gardner.
1,680 reviews113 followers
September 24, 2020
Can’t wait to see this on shelves! Out 10/20/20
Thank you to the publisher, @scholasticinc for this free book to share with @kidlitexchange; I loved it!
Flying Over Water is the dual narrative of two twelve year old girls living in Tampa, Florida. Noura and her family have just moved to Florida from a refugee camp after escaping Syria years ago; she and her twin brother Ammar are trying to adjust to their new life. Jordyn is a white, upper-middle class girl who is tasked with being Noura's guide to their new community. A deep, real friendship quickly develops, however, between the two girls as they find that they both have extreme anxiety they need to overcome. The two girls support each other, Noura in learning to overcome her fear of water and Jordyn in learning to avoid panic attacks. Each girl has a backstory to her fear that is explored in depth. The book is set at the start of Trump's 2017 Muslim ban, however, and some in their community don't want Noura and her family there. A mosque is burned and the new prayer room in their school where multiple students of different faiths came together is desecrated. How will the girls react? Can they find the courage to stand up to hate?
Written by two award-winning authors (I love Shannon Hitchcock's book One True Way and N.H. Senzai's book Escape from Aleppo is excellent!), the two narratives nonetheless complement each other perfectly. I was attached to both characters and loved seeing each of their perspectives.
This book is yet another excellent book for showing students how they can become #youngchangemakers in their community. Both Noura and Jordyn, along with many of their peers of different faiths, use their voices to speak up to the school board. I love having books in my collection that show students the power of collective action and ways that young people can stand up for justice and equity. Flying over Water is one of those books; belongs in every elementary and middle school library!
#middleschoollibrarian #middleschoollibrary #library #librarian #futurereadylibs #iteachlibrary #bookstagrammer #bookstagram #librariesofinstagram #librariansofinstagram
Profile Image for Shifa  Safadi.
213 reviews17 followers
December 10, 2021
Wow! What an amazingly beautiful book cowritten by one of my absolute favorite authors: @nhasnatsenzai ❤️⠀

It is 2017 and President Trump has tried to implement the Muslim ban. Emotions are high in America as protests both for and against immigration erupt across the nation. ⠀

Noura is a twelve year old refugee from Aleppo, Syria who has just arrived in Tampa, Florida. She is super scared of water and struggles with panic attacks due to the stress of her best friend drowning on the way to Greece. She wears a hijab and practices her Islam publicly, but faces prejudice (like an embarrassing foot in sink during wudu scene and a prayer scene in the library).⠀

Jordyn is a competitive swimmer, but when her mother miscarries during one swim meet, she starts having panic attacks near the water. Her mother gets depressed, and when their Church encourages them to help Syrian refugees, her mother’s volunteer work helps her heal and make a new friend in Noura’s mother.⠀

The two girls become good friends and they learn to help each other overcome their panic attacks.⠀

I love how Noura is shown as a proactive young Muslim girl proud of her religion and brave in her own right. She establishes a prayer room at school and offers a speech in support of practicing her religion freely.⠀

I liked how the book displayed current politics and introduced them in a compassionate and gentle way to middle grade readers. Other issues such as Black Lives Matter, taking care of the environment, anti-semitism, and white supremacy are discussed in the book, and the book works as a whole to dismantle prejudice and stereotypes, especially towards Muslims and refugees.⠀

I loved how even though the story featured the reality of war and loss and struggle, it also focused on hope and friendship and second chances! It was a bright story full of positivity and teaches children the idea of standing up for the rights of others!⠀

I absolutely loved this book and all the Islamic and Syrian references in it! So many parts made me smile and I definitely recommend it!!
Profile Image for Dragons*☆4Ever  (semi-hiatus).
810 reviews18 followers
June 24, 2022
🌊🦢💗Flying Over Water💗🦢🌊
Noura Alwan and her family are refugees. They had to escape their home of Aleppo because of the war. Noura is sad but also excited to come to America. However, when she arrives she realizes that not everyone wants refugees in America. When Trump restricts entry into the US if the people are from a population where the majority are Muslim. Noura must deal with living in a new country, and being proud about her culture despite the fact that many judge her because of who she is: Her religion, her family, her past, and her culture. Jordyn hasn't swum well ever since her mother suffered a miscarriage. Ever since then her mother hasn't spent enough time focusing on Jordyn, and Jordyn hasn't been able to focus. Jordyn and Noura both go to the same school and slowly form a strong friendship.

Flying Over Water focuses on important topics that have a lot of relevance to whats going on today. I think this was a really important and amazing book. Because I was a bit distracted (with it being the last day of school yesterday and all) I didn't get too focus to well on this book. I'm giving this book a two-star for okay, not because of the book, but because of the reading experience. I will definitely re-read this book sometime I see how I feel about it!

The only thing I wanted more in this book was to focus on Ammar. It focused heavily on our protagonists that are side characters didn't get as much attention as they needed. I liked our protagonists. I enjoyed how their friendship bloomed over time. I really liked how we had one perspective in Noura's perspective and one in Jordyn's. They had such different lifestyles and experiences that were so vastly different. It was so amazing to see this story from different perspectives.
Profile Image for Susan.
508 reviews3 followers
January 6, 2021
4.5 stars

This beautiful MG story, told in two voices, is one you’ll be thinking about for a long time. Each seventh grade narrator is penned by an #ownvoices author, which lends much authenticity to this refugee story. It is a diary of two seventh grade girls, Noura and Jordyn, who became friends in 2017 just before the ban of Syrian Muslim immigrants to the U.S. It is the story of a Noura’s Syrian refugee Muslim family whose application for immigration is accepted after enduring two long years in a Turkish refugee camp. It is the story of Jordyn’s Chrisitian host family who welcomes them to Tampa and becomes their friends and supporters. It’s a touching story of friendship and the kindness both families give to one another, but it’s also a story of discrimination and fear.

It’s a story that reminds us, in Noura’s mama’s words (quotation from the ARC, it may change in the final copy), “To become a refugee, to leave the place of your birth, break with your culture and history, is like ripping away half of yourself.” It helps us understand the refugee’s loneliness and their yearning for the homes and families they left behind, but also their gratitude for their safety and the opportunities they are working toward in their new country. Finally, it’s a story that reminds us the U.S. is a country full of immigrants and refugees who have contributed so much through the years.

This is an important story for all ages, especially as our country struggles with the question of immigration. It’s one which helps the reader see the world through both the eyes of a twelve year old Syrian refugee, and a twelve year old from Tampa who becomes her friend. It’s a book I flew through and it’s available now.

Profile Image for Kristin .
14 reviews
October 31, 2020
Flying Over Water (2020 Scholastic Press) by N. H. Senzai & Shannon Hitchcock
Jordyn recognizes her mom is depressed after suffering a miscarriage. This traumatic event affects Jordyn too as she experiences panic attacks. The family is open about her mom and Jordyn seeing a therapist and medication that helps her mom cope with the family’s loss. Jordyn’s story weaves nicely into Noura’s story. Noura is a Syrian refugee who has moved to Tampa where Jordyn lives. Through the church that Jordyn and her family attend she and her mom help Noura and her family adjust to their new home. What the two families don’t foresee is their reliance on each other—the Syrian family needs the American family and vice-versa. Along with the story of Jordyn and Noura the reader learns about other cultures. Senzai and Hitchcock do a great job presenting a balanced view of all religions and cultures. The religions presented in the book are centered around the main point of faith: caring for one another and respecting each other. And at the same time how “hatred and compassion [can] reside in the same heart. [And in] the end, it [is] what you chose to do with them that matters.” Both girls are helped by therapy, and the book gives a good description of mental health conditions and ways to live with them. Anyone can experience anxiety no matter where you come from. Flying Over Water is an important book for young people to read right now because it presents the current social and political environment we have to navigate. The novel gives the reader a human, individual experience that is vital to understand today’s world.
238 reviews5 followers
December 28, 2020
Flying Over Water rotates between the views of twelve-year-olds Jordyn Johnson, a record-breaking swimmer, who has not swum well since her mother’s miscarriage at one of her swim meets, and Noura Alwan, newly arrived in Tampa with her family as refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War. Through their church, Jordyn’s family becomes friends with the Alwan family as they help them learn to navigate their new home country in 2017.

The chapters rotate seamlessly between the two girls. While bigotry that would be expected is not ignored, that is not the primary focus of the story. It comes into play when vandals trash the prayer room, established in the school first to accommodate the Muslim prayer traditions but open to those of all faiths or none for prayer or meditation. The center of the story follows the girls developing an empathy as Jordyn teaches Noura to overcome her deep-seated fear of the water and Jordyn wrestles with anxiety attacks begun when mother had the miscarriage. Their mothers mirror the girls’ symbiotic help as Mrs. Johnson helps Mrs. Alwan with her English and navigating her new world while Mrs. Alwan’s cooking lessons draw Mrs. Johnson out of the dark world into which she has retreated since the miscarriage.

Back matter includes the story of the authors’ collaboration and is almost as interesting as the novel itself, short bios of three young refugees, and a list of other books for those who have an interest in authentic refugee and immigrant stories.

This book, listed as middle grade, should be read by anyone over the age of ten who would like an understanding of the plight of refugees and immigrants and of those who choose to befriend them.
Profile Image for Liya.
17 reviews1 follower
October 20, 2020
TW // war, Islamophobia, miscarriage

[though there is no explicit description for any of these]

5/5 stars.

First off, thanks to @qamarblogtours for hosting this book tour and letting me be part of it!

Flying over water is a middle school story that follows two girls, Noura and Jordyn, as they learn to overcome their individual fears and pave a path of unity and love for themselves.

The story starts when Noura, a Syrian refugee, arrives in America amidst Trump’s Muslim ban, and tells the highs and lows of being a Muslim immigrant in the US.

Jordyn, a recorder breaking swimmer facing personal struggles, volunteers to help Noura and her family get familiar to the new country and in the process forges a strong friendship.

While a large part of the story addresses issues like survivor’s guilt, grief and what it is like to lose one’s home, Noura and Jordyn’s individual characters and friendship make the story more lighthearted. It’s absolutely heart warming to read them help each other and rebuild themselves despite the adversities they’d faced.

Additionally, as a Muslim, it was wonderful to see all the beautiful parts of the religion reflected through the Alwan family and the Muslim community in the book.

Absolutely loved the writing in this book and can’t wait to pick up more books by these authors!

Profile Image for Debbie Fischer.
Author 4 books25 followers
June 2, 2021
Flying over Water is a unique story of friendship and immigration that will warm your heart and restore your faith in humanity. Award-winning authors Shannon Hitchcock and N. H. Senzai teamed up to write this novel in alternating viewpoints, giving authenticity and vivid details to the main characters, Noura and Jordyn. Noura has just arrived in Tampa with her family after fleeing war-torn Syria, and Jordyn is her designated “buddy,” thanks to her church’s program assisting refugee families. As soon as Noura arrives in the U.S., bigoted attacks on mosques and synagogues take place, which makes Noura wonder why she came to a nation built on a foundation of religious freedom, yet the news in her new country seems to be all about religious discrimination. The authors don’t shy away from these issues, deftly weaving current events into the novel, which makes it very powerful. At first, Noura and Jordyn appear to have nothing in common, but in fact, they have much in common. Both girls love and worry deeply about their families, have great empathy and compassion for others, and struggle with panic attacks relating to water. In the end, they learn to help each other through these issues and forge a strong bond in doing so. A refreshing, meaningful, poignant read, this heartwarming and heart wrenching book will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
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