One morning ten-year-old Enaiatollah wakes to find his mother has gone. A traumatic experience, and for this young boy even more so because he is not even in his home. Enaiat is a ‘refugee’, a Hazara from Afghanistan and living precariously on the Pakistan border. So starts a remarkable journey as told by Enaiat and recorded by Fabio Geda; a journey that takes Enaiat across Iran, Turkey and Greece to Italy.
Information books for young people are facing challenging times as the Internet provides facts at the touch of a button – and presented in very similar ways. There is great scope for the more reflective, story-telling approach that is often taken for adult readers. This is particularly true for personal stories such as Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed. Young people are always interested in stories that are ‘true’ especially when presented as a narrative that allows both empathy and sympathy. This ‘novel’ is just such a one. Told in direct, unadorned prose it has an immediacy that grabs the attention. If the adult reader might wish for more description, the child will prefer the way Enaiat does not waste time. As he himself says, he is not interested in dwelling on things; he is interested in what happened, the facts. And they more than suffice – the stark reality of seeing his young teacher shot is all the more powerful because it is reported as witnessed by the child without comment; the journey over the mountains which he survives but others do not; the drowning of his friends . However, there is also the enormous sense of camaraderie; the networks of friendship and information (often distorted but enough to keep hope alive) that exists among this world of traffickers, the kindnesses that offset the cruelties. What is clear is that this world is thriving, unseen by us in the West but for many there is no escape. However, this is a hopeful story; Enaiat is a survivor and his spirit shines through his account. He shows that is possible to grasp opportunities, to make the most of what is presented to you, to live.
This is a story accessible to a wide range of readers from KS2 and up and it could be recommended to fans of Elizabeth Laird, and lead young readers on to explore such stories as Abela by Berlie Doherty and Hanna Jensen’s Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You.