Saturday 27 August 2016

Review Time! - The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Title: The Bone Sparrow

Author: Zana Fraillon

Genre: Kids, Contemporary, Magic Realism

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

This book looked interesting and a little unusual - so I was like 'ooh! shiny!'

And you know what? Wow.


Subhi was born in a refugee camp in Australia. He still lives there, with his mother and his sister.

Sometimes, the Night Sea brings Subhi gifts.

One day, it brings him a girl. A girl with a bone sparrow charm around her neck. A girl who can come and go as she pleases - an Outside girl.

Best bits:

I knew very, very little about the Rohingya before reading this book - I was aware that there were refugees from Burma/Myanmar in Australia, but that was about it.

While we're not given much background on the Rohingya here, other than that they're persecuted, the highlighting of their plight can only be a good thing.

Subhi is the crowning glory of this book. He is sweet, relatable, believable, and strong. He is incredible.

I also loved the way stories, memories, and the power of words, were treated in this book.

Subhi and Jimmie (the 'Outside' Australian girl,) bond over stories and a feeling that they can't create sense in the strange world that they live in.

So they create their own corner of calm, where stories seem more real than reality.

I liked that this book didn't shy away from that reality though - the poor conditions the Rohingya are living in, the way they both long for home and fear it, the feeling of hopelessness that pervades in the camp, turning slowly into anger...

I think it's important that books are bold enough to show the roughness of reality, while maintaining the hope and the heart that are shown here.

Not so great bits:

While I liked the story of Jimmie's persecuted Eastern European ancestors, I felt like it was a little unnecessary, and perhaps a tad constructed.

Do we really need to equate the Rohingya's suffering with that of persecuted white people in order to empathise? Perhaps so. But, if that's the case, we need to take a long hard look at what we're doing in this life.

I would've preferred the story of Subhi's mother - travelling with a small child and another on the way, not sure what was waiting ahead, but hoping that life would be better. Or the tale of Subhi's father, someone Subhi has never met, but hopes to meet one day.

I just feel like those stories would've felt more valid here.

The ending felt like it wasn't... well, ended enough.

There wasn't enough resolution of the various threads - at least, not for me, though I grant you that that's a personal thing.

I was also surprised - given that this is a kids' book - that the odd mild swear word sneaked in there. I don't have a problem with it - and it was perfectly acceptable in context, but I can see there being issues for some parents.

There's also some violence, mentions of 'suicide watch' etc. Again, totally understandable in context, but will be an issue for some.


This is a great book. A very human book about a little boy, and the stories he makes to make the world around him make more sense.

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  1. It's funny that you should review this today—the official launch was on today in my city. I didn't get to go because I was at another event, but I'm glad I saw this review. We don't talk a lot about refugees, or at least not in good lights, in anything but literature. I'll have to keep this one of my radar.

    1. It was really good - and really heart-breaking. Like I said, I would've preferred more of an ending, but that's very much a personal thing.

      It's been out in the UK for a little while (I meant to review before it came out, but just didn't get around to it,) and isn't out in the US 'til November - it always surprises me just how different the book release dates are in different countries!

  2. Wow this book looks like something incredible! I think it would break my heart though, but is that always a bad thing?

    1. Ha, not always. There were lighter moments too, luckily :) But yeah... pretty heart-breaking in places!

  3. It seems like this was good and it did show you a bit about the reality and harshness of things, but that a better angle may have made the story even more enjoyable.

    1. I think that's a pretty good summary of my position! :) Thanks Liv

  4. why is there a missing bit on page 246 and whats it supposed to be#


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