Refugee by Alan Gratz

Our Score


Refugee is a book about three families searching for a new home. It is appropriate for older teens as it has mature themes.


Three kids travel to find refuge…

JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. After his father is released from a concentration camp his family must board a ship to flee to the other side of the world…

ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .

MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .

They all face terror and death but they believe that there is something better out there. A place where they can live in peace. And although these children are separated by continents and time their stories of hope are bound together.


  • amazing stories that show the humanity behind the word “refugee”.
  • well paced, riveting book that kept me turning the pages.
  • had many historical details in it which is good for students to discuss.
  • each one of the three voices are unique.


  • traumatic experiences are had by all the children and may be hard for the more sensitive reader.
  • the story jumps between three points of view which some people may find annoying.


Honestly, I would recommend this book to everyone. It really helped me see past the generic term “refugee” and acknowledge the people/victims behind this very real crisis. Although this is a piece of fiction the author has remained true to the historical catalysts that set each of the great voyages in motion. Although at some points in time it is hard to read it is a story of hope and it really blessed me.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did this book change your idea about what a refugee is? Why or why not?
  2. Many people in both the Canada and the US have refugees in their family tree. Talk to your family/friend and find out more about their trip to find a new home.
  3. Brainstorm some ways that we can help refugees as they travel and when they arrive to their new homes.
Karen deBlieck
Karen deBlieck’s writing reflects the tension of identity and the sense of belonging she struggled with as a black American born in Japan and adopted by white Canadian parents (phew!). From a very young age she found solace in putting her thoughts and feelings down on the page. Writing in poem, short story and novel form her pieces are emotionally and conflict charged. Her stories are written for the general market but she hopes that it challenges her readers to dig further into what True Life is really about.

She was a finalist in The Word Guild’s (Canada) “God Uses Ink”, ACFW’s “First Impressions”, and The Reading Rooms “Aspiring Writers” contests. The short story Talking Drum can be found in “The Story – 2014 Anthology”. Her day job is Awards Director for The Word Guild, a group that supports Christian writers across Canada.

She dreams of travelling through space and time, being sorted into a Hogwart’s house and finding her way to Neverland. When she’s not writing or cooking for her hubby and four kids she enjoys teaching teens about life and words. Check out more about Karen, the current novel she is working on and her blog at

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