When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

“ And yet, the stars are not lost. They form patterns. Constellations. If you know how to look, there are stories woven into the very essence of stars” (When Stars are Scattered).

Graphic novel grades 8-12

Themes displacement, political unrest, resilience, family, loyalty

The story takes place over three significant times in the life of our protagonist: as a child, as a teenager, and as a young man.

The brothers Omar and Hassan live in a refugee camp in Kenya. When the story begins, they have already lived in the camp for seven years after fleeing Somalia under the threat of violence. Tragically, during this time, their father was killed and their mother went missing. The refugee camp in which they live is incredibly large with markets, clinics, schools, and neighbourhoods of various wealth. 

Omar would love to go to school but doesn’t because he fears for the safety of his little brother Hassan. Hassan is nonverbal and because of the traumatic experiences in Somalia, becomes extremely distressed when Omar leaves him.. Eventually, Omar gets the chance to attend school, with the help of their neighbour and guardian Fatuma who agrees to care for Hassan. At school, Omar realized that the only way he will be able to leave the refugee camp is to become educated enough to impress the UN workers who visit. Then, with luck, he will eventually succeed in his “interview’ to be placed in a new country.

The day-to-day life of a political refugee is detailed in this novel. At times it the novel describes the violence the boys experienced while fleeing Somalia and the violence Hassan faces in the camp itself. This violence, however, is not gratuitous or graphic. This graphic novel is an effective and engaging way to present the realities of a refugee camp through the convincing and empathetic voice of someone who has actually lived it.

This novel would be very suitable for book clubs in jr. and sr. high. Several cross-curricular connections can be made with Social Studies and Religious Studies. The various themes offer opportunities for depth of discussion and reflection. 

If not used as part of classroom study, it definitely should be made a part of every school or classroom library.

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