‘Looking at the Stars’ by Jo Cotterill

366p 2014 Bodley Head Won in a giveaway

When Amina’s father is killed by soldiers working for the country’s dictator, Amina, her mother and her two sisters flee their home. At a checkpoint, Amina and her older sister, Jenna, are separated from their mother and their younger sister Vivie. Worried about their safety and that of their mother and Vivie, Amina and Jenna decide to walk to a refugee camp, hoping to be reunited with them there. 

In the refugee camp, the two girls have the good fortune to meet Cosima and her two sons, Aron and Lemo. When the sisters agree to stay with Cosima’s family in their crude, makeshift tent, Amina and Jenna have to adapt to living in the harsh refugee camp very quickly. While in the camp, they have to struggle for survival every day. Filled with despair, Amina starts to let her imagination run and she begins to tell stories about the stars. Her stories transport many people’s minds to a wonderful starry world, taking them, just for a while, away from the cruel reality of their lives.  Amina’s stories help the people in the refugee camp. The stories make them hopeful that there will be an end to the war and that they will be happier one day. Will Amina and Jenna ever see their mother and Vivie again?

Looking at the Stars is a book that I will always remember, it pulled at my heartstrings. All the characters are so well written, they seem alive, and the stories that Amina weaved left me star struck. It’s such a special book, and is also very similar to what is happening currently with the huge Syrian refugee crisis.

When I first read this book I wanted to know what happened to the girls next.  Now, I’m unsure as to whether there should be a sequel to Looking at the Stars; it’s perfect as it is.

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