Soon Subhi, the people out there will remember us. Soon they’ll see that living in here isn’t living at all. We just need to show them who we are, that we’re people, and then they’ll remember. This time, they won’t forget.
Subhi was born in a refugee camp, and has never known freedom. His mother and sister remember life before, and the dangerous journey to get to Australia, but now even his mother has stopped hoping, stopped telling the stories of home, and teaching Subhi their language. Subhi still believes in goodness, and lives with the hope that one day his father will come and join them and that they will live outside of the camp.
Jimmie lives close to the camp, with her father and brother, but since the death of her mother the family is barely functioning. Jimmie rarely goes to school because Dad works shifts and her brother is too busy to take her. She wonders about the nearby camp and whether its inhabitants have things she doesn’t. When she finds a way in, it is Subhi that she meets.
The Bone Sparrow is a moving story of friendship and survival. Both children are scarred by what is happening in their own lives, but each is able to offer the other hope.
But, though Jimmie’s story is part of the book, it is Subhi’s life which will shock young readers, offering a glimpse of life in detention camps and, particularly, of the children who live in them. The story is confronting, with Subhi and fellow inmates being poorly treated – physically and emotionally. It is this confronting nature that makes the story so important, giving an empathetic voice to a problem happening here in Australia and abroad – as the book’s afterword claims, “an all too true reality.”
Beautifully told, The Bone Sparrow will bring tears, and a desire to change things for kids like Subhi.