The Star Outside My Window
Ten-year-old Aniyah and her little brother Noah find themselves living in foster care after the sudden disappearance of their mum. With her life in disarray, Aniyah knows just one thing for sure: her mum isn't gone forever.
Aniyah believes that the people with the brightest hearts never truly disappear. They become stars. When scientists discover a new star acting strangely, Aniyah knows it's really her mum. To make sure everyone else knows, too, she embarks on the adventure of a lifetime--one that involves breaking into the Royal Observatory of London, and meeting the biggest star in Hollywood.
This is an honest yet empathetic exploration of how people respond to difficult circumstances, told through the innocent voice of a ten-year-old girl.
It's good to see a positive foster home and caregiver portrayed, although the difficulties with adjustment to the situation are not downplayed. Noah wets the bed, but Mrs. Iwuchukwi doesn't get mad. The children are provided with plenty of food, but there is only concern, not discipline, when Anjali won't eat. Anjali is also selectively mute at the beginning of the book, due to her trauma. Other realities of the trauma-based situation are realistically portrayed; Anjali has to talk to the police, with her foster mother there to support her.
Young readers will be enthralled by the thrilling but ill-advised bicycle journey to London, and will be interested in the astronomy portrayed. Each chapter features a star, and constellations are discussed. I found it interesting that the children really did try to prepare well for the journey, but run into understandable difficulties. Persistence, however, helps them to reach their goal.
Raúf has several notes about domestic abuse and its effects on young people, and has lists of resources that can help those affected. In addition to her books, which include Boy at the Back of the Class, she is involved in Making Herstory, an organization devoted to bettering the lives of women and girls. Reader who enjoyed Lewis' The Scarlet Ibis, Durrant's Little Bits of Sky or Running on Empty or other stories where the main characters have similar challenges will find this book about coming to terms with trauma informative and interesting.