Cover Image: Muhammad Najem, War Reporter

Muhammad Najem, War Reporter

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Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy. I usually do not like graphic novels, but I could not put this down. The real life accounts are presented in a powerful way that is not too scary for younger readers. Even though I read the ARC on a black and white kindle, the illustrations are great. The photographs and information at the end were a great touch as well. The topics of war, refugees, family, and journalism can all be discussed. Thank you for a happy ending and a clean graphic novel to add to my classroom library.
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I started to read this, and couldn’t put it down. This is the story of a teen, living in the thick of the war in Syria, posting social media accounts of the destruction being done around him, hoping that someone out in the English speaking world would discover him, which they did at long last.

We follow him from the beginning of the bombing, until he finally relocates in Turkey, and does long distance reporting with the help of friends left behind.

This book was written with the help of the CNN reporter who found his story, online, and first wrote about him, to spread the word about his reporting. 

Very stark, very honest, very sad but oh, so important to tell the story.

Beautifully illustrated, with all the destruction in full view, as well as the heartache.

<em>Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.</em>
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This graphic memoir follows Muhammad from ~2017-8 when he was a teenager and decided to start video-documenting the airstrikes on his home outside of Damascus, Syria. His older brother was turning in articles to news outlets and so Muhammad decides he wanted to document the journey of children affected by the war (since he himself was a child too). His twitter posts start to gain some traction and then go viral after an article about his documentation goes live on CNN. His town is eventually destroyed in the airstrikes and after many deaths, his family moves to another city in Syria and then eventually to Turkey.

This memoir is very raw and I recommend going in with caution as it's very triggering. There is on page death and destruction from war. At a very young age, Muhammad deals with grief for his family and his country and also deals with a lot of survivor's guilt. There is a follow up in the back about what the family is doing now and even a grape leaf recipe that was a staple of the family while they were in air raid shelters. This is a great book that not only brings light on a very serious war in Syria but also can inspire young tweens and teens on how to help their communities, no matter where they're from.

Thank you to netgalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This  #arc book had me sobbing and yet so grateful! Grateful that someone shone the spotlight on my beloved Syria and the truth was written for the world to see!

Genre: Middle Grade Graphic Novel
Age: 9-12 and up
Author: Muhammad Najem and Nora Neus
Illustrations/Art by Julie Robine
Published: @littlebrownyoungreaders

Muhammad tells his story of growing up in Eastern Ghouta and how his life was full of joy- until one day the Assad forces came. They bombed his home, took away his loved ones, and bombarded the city until everyone in it was starving and under seige. Muhammad’s father always told him everyone has a story- and so he set out to show it. He used his phone and social media to record what was happening and started posting online. 
But it didn’t come without consequences, and his home and city were attacked even more. Muhammad and his family barely made it to Rebel-controlled Idlib, and from there, into Turkey, where Muhammad continues his reporting and posting to show the world the crimes of the Assad regime.

For such a heavy topic, this graphic novel does an AMAZING job of making the content appropriate for this age group. The emotion that came from the story, the words, and the art can only be describes as authentic and I found myself crying as I read Muhammad’s story and broken hearted that my birth country was and is still being broken by a cruel dictatorship that gives no thought to who it harms.

I really appreciated the honesty of the story. This is not a book in which the Syrian conflict is minimized or reduced to a civil war- the story of living under an oppressive dictatorship that is propped up by Russia and Iran, a  dictatorship that is committing genocide against the sunni-majority population, a war against humanity with no mercy or care at the destruction it causes.

This story does end with hope, hope that continued coverage of Syria and the struggles Syrian face might somehow someday change the situation. 

The fear of Muhammad is so real- the fear of speaking against a regime that will wipe out whole families simply for speaking the truth. I feel it as well.

Words themselves are resistance and I pray for a free Syria🤲
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This 320 page full color middle grade graphic novel is a powerful and moving read. The memoir focuses on the young Syrian boy who began reporting on the war from the perspective of children and sharing his work on social media.  The raw emotion, the determination to make a difference, the familial love, are conveyed in a way that allows eight and nine year old readers to connect to living through horror with compassion and outrage and empathy.  Older readers will also be drawn in and moved by the relatability of a boy their age having his world turned upside down.  I particularly like how the book dispels so many assumptions and stereotypes by showing what life was like before the devastation, a bit about the role of outside forces and political oppression, and really creating a mood where you can imagine what you would do if you were in Muhammad's situation.  The book is heavy, but also has a lot of hope and and joy. I tend to like nonfiction graphic novels that are character driven like this one.  I find I understand the scope of what they are enduring by seeing it through their eyes and feeling like I know them and thus can better grasp what their reality is.  There are photographs at the end which further connect the readers to Muhammad and Syria, and I hope this book finds its way into classrooms, libraries, homes, and hearts, so that we might be better to one another.  Readers of When Stars are Scattered will similarly love this book.

SYNOPSIS:

The book begins with eight-year-old Muhammad hanging around his father's carpentry shop in Eastern Ghouta, playing soccer and pleading to by treats from the candy seller.  When Assad's soldiers come, destroy his soccer ball, and his family warns him not to trust anyone, including the new candy seller, Muhammad's world is suddenly not so certain.  When his family must seek shelter at a moments notice, homework is left, videogames paused, and fear very real.

Muhammad is the miracle child, born after the family didn't know if they could have any more children, he is the fourth, and spoiled. Even with destruction and sheltering though, there is joy, more children are born in to the family, and while Muhammad's status might be in question, his love of his little brother and sister, motivate him to do something to create a safer home.

At age 13, his father and uncle go for Jummah salat, and his father is killed while praying.  At 15 Muhammad is done hiding, he knows he will never be safe and he starts filming and sharing stories of children as a way to honor is father and fight back against oppression.  

With the support of his family, and constant worry that Assad's army will target him, Muhammad keeps telling the stories of those with no voice.  Eventually his following grows, catches international attention, and gives Muhammad purpose. 

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love the format for this story, you truly can't put it down.  It shows the emotion so powerfully that you cry when characters are lost.  You know hundreds die every day, but the singling in on a character that you have grown to love dying moves the reader, add in that you know this was a real person and that Muhammad really endured the loss, and it reminds you of your humanity.  The love the characters all have for their oldest sister is absolutely incredible.  The pages of the family just being so connected are my absolute favorites.  

The characters are Muslim and it is a part of their daily lives, there is no pulling out of the narrative and explaining or preaching.  The women wear hijab, they plead with Allah swt, they reflect on Allah's plan, they go for prayers at the masjid.  

FLAGS:

Death, destruction, war, fear. It is not sensationalized, and I truly think middle grade and middle school readers will benefit from reading, even the sensitive ones.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I think the book would be wonderful to teach in the classroom tying literature, current events, and history together.  I absolutely think every library, classroom, and home bookshelf should feature this book.

It can be pre-orderd here
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