The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Rauf

The Boy at the Back of the Class

Our children’s book of the month for June was the much hyped The Boy at the Back of the Class. Is there an award this book hasn’t won yet? The children were very excited to read it as most had already heard of it. I was keen to see what all the fuss was about

The Blurb

“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 nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!

But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.

That’s where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we’ve come up with a plan. . .”

A mother figure!!!!

I particularly liked how initially you were not sure whether you were reading from a boy or girls point of view. I was convinced we were reading about a girl. Others in the group thought it was a boy with Josie being their tomboy friend. Very clever of Rauf.

I was most pleased however to see that our lead protagonist had a mum! A first for our book club! Yes the dad had died, and the mum worked a lot but she was clearly a loving mum who created adventures for her child. It was picked up on by the group with one member stating “there’s a mum, and she isn’t a wicked step one”.

Questions and answers

A book about a refugee from Syria will inevitably pique curiosity and I answered (from my child alone) several questions about where Syria is, how do borders work and why did the boats not have lifeboats. Questions similar to that our protagonist had. It was good to raise awareness and the questions/tasks at the back of the book supplemented this really well. I recommend anyone reading the book takes the time to read ‘the bit at the back of the book’ too.

As well as a gender vague protagonist, The Boy at the Back of the Class featured a really varied cast from boys with afros, mixed heritage kids, refugees, even an American. It didn’t matter in the book who you were and it didn’t matter to the book club. It certainly is a good one if you are searching out a bit of BAME child friendly reading.

Book Club wise the children loved trying pomegranates. We learnt a few words in Kurdish and are all far more aware of the issues highlighted in the book. Above all though we enjoyed a really uplifting, positive story about a brave little boy and his fabulous friends.


It was slightly cliched at the end. But don’t forget it is a children’s book and in the context it really worked. You wanted to cheer, you wanted best friends like Ahmet found, a head teacher like Mrs Saunders and those biscuits that were eaten on the tube. Lots of those please!

The book was genuinely heart warming, thought provoking, and loved by the whole book club. We awarded The Boy at the Back of the Class 5 out of 5 Tintin pencil cases. After an explanation of who Tintin was.

The Boy at the Back of the Class
The Boy at the Back of the Class

Book Club books

If you would like to read more about our children’s book club books have a look at She Wolf our Book of the Month for May.