Aftershock by Bernard Ashley
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2011. ISBN 978 847800558.
(Ages 10+) Recommended. Going to live in London after the earthquakes in Greece killed her husband and destroyed their village, Makis' mother becomes a recluse, not daring to go outside, unable to understand the basic words int his new language and fearful for her son, all that she has left in the world.
Makis learns to succeed at school, taking the new words and flying through the classes he is put in as a newcomer. He shrugs off the bullying by some of the other boys, but wins their pleasure when he proves himself at soccer. Picked for the school team he is proud of his achievements and learns to catch the bus to the matches, encouraging his mother to come along as well.
He works out a way to help his mother learn English, although she can see through his little ruse, and slowly she becomes less hesitant about her surroundings. But the day of the final, Makis' mother becomes overwhelmed with grief at seeing a drawing in one of the school books she is using to learn to read, and Makis stays home to help her. In missing the start of the match he earns the wrath of the whole school, and it takes a while for the situation to be resolved.
A story which reflects the plight of many migrants and refugees, Ashley has written a tale of many layers which will appeal to a wide number of students. Fitting in, bullying, sport and learning to read are but some of the layers, and I was struck by Makis' mother, taking such a huge step in leaving the land of her birth after her husband's death, to move to a foreign place. Her courage is singular.