Book Review #36 THE BONE SPARROW by Zana Fraillon

cover88328-mediumThis ARC was sent to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review. Thank you to the author Zana Fraillon and Hachette Children’s Group for this opportunity.


Edition: Hardcover

ISBN: 9781510101548

PRICE: £12.99 (GBP)

Publication Date: 14th July 2016

Description courtesy of

Subhi is a refugee who has spent all ten years of his life in a detention centre. Jimmie is a girl who lives on the Outside. Beautiful, vivid, and deeply moving, The Bone Sparrow is an important, timely story of survival and bravery, perfect for fans of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. This novel reminds us all of the importance of freedom, hope, and the power of a story to speak for anyone who’s ever struggled to find a safe home.

Born in a refugee camp, all Subhi knows of the world is that he’s at least 19 fence diamonds high, the nice Jackets never stay long, and at night he dreams that the sea finds its way to his tent, bringing with it unusual treasures. And one day it brings him Jimmie.

Carrying a notebook that she’s unable to read and wearing a sparrow made out of bone around her neck – both talismans of her family’s past and the mother she’s lost – Jimmie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Subhi beyond the fence.

As he reads aloud the tale of how Jimmie’s family came to be, both children discover the importance of their own stories in writing their futures.

This novel introduces the readers to the Rohingya people and their plight. Fleeing from Burma, where they are considered stateless entities, many left risking life and limb trying to find a new home.

Written in the first person, we are introduced to Subhi and a little bit of magic realism that runs through the novel. Subhi talks about the night sea and the treasures that it brings him from his ba (father). In the refugee camp there are only cramped, poor, damp, inadequate living conditions but Subhi tries to find pleasure and purpose in his day to day life. Born in the camp he relies on stories, magazines and his imagination to picture a world outside of the fence. He is yet to see anything outside the fence through his own eyes.

The jackets (wardens) are harsh except for one who tries to add a little joy to the lives of the children in the camp with simple things like a small paddling pool to keep the children cool in the scorching weather.

One night a young girl from the local houses comes into the camp finding a weakness in the fence. Jimmie’s mum has died and left her dad broken. Jimmie has a book from her mum but cannot read it. Subhi can read, so through Jimmie asking Subhi to read the book to her a beautiful friendship is established.

Night after night she sneaks in and Subhi reads a story about Jimmie’s ancestors. As the story progresses so the life in the camp changes. Subhi’s Maá (mother) is eating less and less, his sister Queeny is increasingly angry at their situation and when his friend Eli gets moved from the family zone to the male adult zone, when he is obviously too young, events take a devastating turn.

This is a moving piece of writing by Zana, the poor standards of life that she makes us aware of through this book is shocking. But the story is not overwhelmed by the point that Zana is trying to make. The story itself is beautiful and well thought out.

I would encourage you to read this book and perhaps do some research  for yourself about the plight of refugees around the world.

I give this book 3 stars. I liked it, it made me think, I recommended it to a friend. I think the only thing stopping me from making it four stars is the magical element. This is purely personal taste- magical realism is something I struggle to connect with.

THE BONE SPARROW is available for preorder on Amazon* and will be released on the 14th July.


* This is an associates link

Here is a link to a Pinterest board I created inspired by this novel.


One comment

  1. Pingback: Pinterest Plans | juliapike

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