Zafir by Prue Mason

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Through my eyes series. Allen & Unwin, 2015. ISBN 9781743312544
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Syria, Dictatorship. When Zafir and his family move back to Syria, Zafir has little idea of what life will be like. He has been brought up in Dubai where he has mixed with a range of other kids his age from all countries of the world. He has been allowed to do things he wishes to do: talk openly about politics, use Facebook and a mobile phone without restriction, see the people he wants to see and so on, but when his father accepts a job in the hospital at Homs, his life changes dramatically. Here there are secrets, secrets he has little idea about, secrets when shared must be kept under wraps. His uncle seems to have more liberal views but again no one must know. His mother uses email, but only through a secret address and she has ideas about freedoms which too must never be discussed. His one friend at school, Rami also has secrets, and Zafir thinks it may have something to do with why the other boys call him names. When he finds out he must make a choice between his friend and the gang that pursues him. But one day he and his mother go to Damascus to see his uncle, without telling their father and here they see a brave few demonstrate against the government and see their uncle beaten and taken away by the police. The secrets have come out into the open and Zafir and his family are caught in the backlash when after a demonstration in Homs, his father helps a young man who has been shot by the police.
Another in the fine series, Through my eyes, sees Zafir at the centre of the story, a twelve year old Syrian boy exposed to a different lifestyle, seeing his own country's dark heart.
Through his eyes we see the terror under which many people live, the role of the state police and the cruel way some are treated. We see the more liberal minded striving for freedoms we take for granted in the West, and what happens to them when they call for change.
A timeline of Syria's history fills in some of the background to the novel, and can be found at the end of the book, along with a dictionary of the Arabic words found in the text and information about the other books in the series. A map at the start of the book helps readers place where the story is set. This is a most readable and engaging book about a country we hear little of. It could well be used as a class set, as with any of this fine series, or a study where the class selects one of the Through My Eyes series to read in a group.
Fran Knight