'No Ballet Shoes in Syria' is an important, inspiring and heart wrenching children's book about asylum seekers and the effects of war. Catherine Bruton has created a story that demands the reader to think differently about the refugee crisis and to act from a place of kindness and compassion.
Aya, her mother and baby brother, have fled war in Syria and after a long and difficult journey across Europe they are seeking asylum in Britain. Nothing is easy: Aya has to speak in English to caseworkers and the paperwork to remain is a huge legal challenge. But everything changes when Aya peeks a look at a ballet class in the local community centre. Spotting extraordinary talent in Aya, the ballet teacher might just help Aya and her family's life change forever.
This is a beautiful story that builds like a magnificent dance. As the narrative stretches and spins then soars with refined elegance, we learn more about Aya's struggles and our own perceptions of asylum seekers in the UK. With Brexit dominating headlines this is a necessary and timely book that reminds us of our humanity and our need to act with empathy. The best children's literature encourages such empathy as well as discussion about the world we live in. Catherine Bruton takes up the challenge and does this with great respect and finesse. Her prose is precise; a pointe exactness delivering a great deal of heart.
Aya is a superb and vulnerable character. I felt so much for her and wanted her to be okay. But the characters of Miss Helena and Dotty remind us of how we can be kind and what friendship and true humanity means. What an inspiring message 'No Ballet Shoes in Syria' has. And how it makes us look at ourselves much more.
Nosy Crow is having a brilliant year. Like 'We Won an Island', 'No Ballet Shoes in Syria' is a story reminding us how compassionate communities can be in a world full of struggles and heartache. Thanks to Nosy Crow for my copy.