No words by Maryam Master

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This is a funny heart-warming story about friendship and acceptance of diversity. It centres around two young girls and the new boy in school, Aria, or Mute Boy, as he is teased by the others. Hero, named by her father after a Shakespearean character, and Jaz, her highly enthusiastic best friend, try to protect Aria from the school bully Rufus. The chapters fly by as Hero recounts embarrassing family situations and school mishaps. But gradually we also build up a picture of Aria, a refugee from Iran, as interweaving chapters tell of his family’s escape from persecution.

Much of the humour comes from scenes involving Hero’s father who seems to have bi-polar disorder. It is when he is UP with determination and drive that he inspires the trio of friends to overcome their fears and take on a challenge that will free Aria from his silence.

Maryam Master, an Iranian Australian, has written an uplifting story that has many funny moments, but also manages to deal with serious issues of bullying, refugees, and mental health, in a way that is easy to read and understand. The chapters are short and the print is broken up with different text highlights; a format that is sure to appeal to young readers. As a whole it makes for a fun and rewarding read with really positive messages about overcoming fear and finding inner strength.

Teachers’ notes are available on the publisher's website.

Themes: Friendship, Refugees, Bullying, Inclusivity, Self esteem, Confidence.

Helen Eddy