Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Escape From Syria

Kullab, Samya (Author)
Roche, Jackie (Illustrator)
Freiheit, Mike (Illustrator)
Firefly Books 2017. 96 pages
First published: 2017
ISBN: 9781770859821 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Historical

Text Elements:

conflict, dialogue, multimodal, panel arrangement, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

The destruction, upheaval and social ills that accompany war are conveyed through the voice of studious young Amina, whose family flees Syria and languishes in a Lebanese refugee camp, after their house in Aleppo is bombed flat.

The graphic novel format skillfully incorporates maps, lists and reproductions of news-images to explain social and political roots of the civil war and Lebanon’s relationship with its Syrian refugees, while portraying Amina and her family’s own story. One darkened sequence shows 13-year-old Amina and her mother cuddling outside their taped-up tent: “‘The camp is not a safe place for a young girl. Your father is terrified of what Abu Haidar could do to us … to you.’ ‘Are you saying I should get married like Mona? ... NEVER! NEVER!’”

The plot structure flashes back and forth in time, interweaving frosty scenes of culture shock in Toronto with warm yet troubled memories of home: “‘All is lost.’ ‘What do you mean, Dad?’ ‘Look at those people—their own country is willing to kill them.’” In between, the stresses of camp life include missing school (“Sacrifices? ... You mean to work?”), loan sharks (“Tell him if he isn’t here tomorrow, things will get messy”), people-smugglers (“My life jacket! It’s FAKE!”) and bad news from relatives: “Assad’s sieges and starvation tactics have killed many.”

The bittersweet ending pairs an image of Dad’s cellphone showing a desperate text from their cousin in Syria (“Help us”) with a full-page picture of a winter-bundled Amina, smiling as she enters the doors of her new high school. Extensive endnotes are illustrated with story images and captioned news photography.

  •  

    The fictional narrative is inspired by news stories about Syrian refugees coming to Canada. The book’s back matter includes notes about the original stories and some historical context. Refer to these periodically during reading.

  •  

    In small groups, compare Amina’s life in Syria/Lebannon with her life in Canada. Consider the aspects that are important to her such as personal freedom, her family and education.

  •  

    Write a reflective text that considers the moral dilemma presented in the story. Begin with the main one, which is to stay in Lebanon or go to North America. Share and compare your ideas with a partner.

  •  

    In a small group, discuss the challenges a refugee family faces when relocating to a new country with no money or knowledge of the language and culture.

  •  

    As you read, reflect on Amina’s quality of life after each major family displacement.

  •  

    Write an email to the U.N. explaining what you think the global community can do to improve conditions in Syria. Use Amina’s family’s experience to add weight to your email.

  • To cooperate with others
  • To solve problems
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Social Sciences