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Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves, and to find Aya’s father – separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. With beautiful, captivating writing, wonderfully authentic ballet detail, and an important message championing the rights of refugees, this is classic storytelling – filled with warmth, hope and humanity. “A perfect balance of tragedy and triumph” – Natasha Farrant, author of The Children of Castle Rock


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Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves, and to find Aya’s father – separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. With beautiful, captivating writing, wonderfully authentic ballet detail, and an important message championing the rights of refugees, this is classic storytelling – filled with warmth, hope and humanity. “A perfect balance of tragedy and triumph” – Natasha Farrant, author of The Children of Castle Rock

30 review for No Ballet Shoes in Syria

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marie the Librarian

    Such a good and emotional and superimportant book! Read it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    a child's journey from war torn Syria to the UK and her ballet journey from lessons in Aleppo to lessons in UK under a former refugee from the former Czech republic escaping the Nazis. Felt it was an easy read in grammar even though its a tough topic of fleeing violence and repression. a child's journey from war torn Syria to the UK and her ballet journey from lessons in Aleppo to lessons in UK under a former refugee from the former Czech republic escaping the Nazis. Felt it was an easy read in grammar even though its a tough topic of fleeing violence and repression.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daisy May Johnson

    Aya is eleven, Syrian, and seeking asylum in Britain. Her mum, her, and her baby brother, escaped from the war in Syria - but her father got separated from them on the way. Her whole family is suffering from the experience (and it's handled so delicately and sensitively and well by Bruton but fyi if you're working with children who may have undergone a similar experience), and her life is not easy. One day she comes across a ballet class, and it's there that everything starts to change... In her Aya is eleven, Syrian, and seeking asylum in Britain. Her mum, her, and her baby brother, escaped from the war in Syria - but her father got separated from them on the way. Her whole family is suffering from the experience (and it's handled so delicately and sensitively and well by Bruton but fyi if you're working with children who may have undergone a similar experience), and her life is not easy. One day she comes across a ballet class, and it's there that everything starts to change... In her introduction to this, Bruton name-checks some of the best dance stories out there - the Sadlers Wells books by the wonderful Lorna Hill; Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild; and The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown. It's a small thing, but incredibly important as it means that she knows her stuff. These are totemic books, in a perenially popular genre of children's literature, and I think that No Ballet Shoes In Syria more than stands up to them. In fact, it's out in May and I'm telling you about it now because I think it's great. It made me cry, and it made me smile, and it feels like one of those quietly classic stories that British children's literature does so utterly well. It's full of a lot of heart this, not in the least with the representation of Aya. She's a powerful, brave character and the impact of her experience is never far from her. It's no easy thing to write somebody suffering from trauma, let alone to render that in such a beautiful, under-stated and kind manner, but Bruton manages it extremely well. The narrative engages in a series of flashbacks, talking about her life in Syria and the slow erosion of this by war, and the contrast is starkly rendered at some points. I was particularly moved by the points where the relative privilege and comfort of Aya's new life in Britain triggered some painful flashbacks for her. It's also important to note that this is a book that knows its stuff; the distinction between a refugee and an asylum seeker is carefully made, and the historic parallels of Aya's journey are sensitively and movingly explored. This is a good book. It's honest, kind, heartbreaking and really rather utterly lovely. My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sophie Snowden

    A truly wonderful story about a journey to pursue a passion, overcoming several battles on the way. This book tells the story of Aya and her family, who are refugees from Syria. Aya has to take on the role of the mother in the story, because although she has a mother, she is not very well, therefore Aya is looking after her and her baby brother, Moosa. Aya is invited by a local ballet teacher to come and join her ballet school, Aya used to dance when she was in Syria. Aya joins the school where A truly wonderful story about a journey to pursue a passion, overcoming several battles on the way. This book tells the story of Aya and her family, who are refugees from Syria. Aya has to take on the role of the mother in the story, because although she has a mother, she is not very well, therefore Aya is looking after her and her baby brother, Moosa. Aya is invited by a local ballet teacher to come and join her ballet school, Aya used to dance when she was in Syria. Aya joins the school where she becomes great friends with Dotty who helps to understand Aya's story. Aya is going through a tough time, not knowing whether their request for asylum will be granted in the UK, but she uses her dancing to help her overcome these feelings. She receives great support from her ballet teachers who really look after Aya and her family, helping her to develop as a dancer. After a long time of uncertainty, Aya realises that the only chance she might have of staying into the UK is to audition for a ballet school. She choreographs a dance all about her past, and after a rough start, she performs this amazing dance, but she has to wait and see if she'll get in. After organising a wonderful event to raise money for the centre, Aya recieves the news that she has been offered a place at the Ballet school, alongside Dotty, who will be taking a different course. Then she finds that Momma and Moose have been granted the asylum - with help from some friends - so Aya uses her dance in the recital, she has put on, to portray wonderful memories of her dad. Throughout the story there are flashbacks to times from Syria, which link so beautifully to the story, and help the reader understand what Aya has been through. You could use these to plot Aya’s journey from Aleppo which could link to Geography. This truly heartwarming story is a perfect balance of triumph and tragedy, and portrays how far perseverance can get you. It's a great story about the importance of passion, and how far this can take you. It is a story that would inspire anyone to pursue a dream, as long as they believe in themselves, and use their experiences to help performance. A wonderful story which would suit KS2 readers, both boys and girls.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Louise Goddard

    This book is a fantastic story about the emotional, heartbreaking journey of a young girl from Syria to England. I really enjoyed the way the author jumped from past to present to show how the main character was feeling, and I think that children in Year 5 or 6 would really enjoy this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I really don’t know where to start with this book, it is so beautifully written and I absolutely loved it from the first page! The story follows Aya on her new life in England with extracts written following her journey from Syria to England. The minute you start this book you have so much sympathy for Aya and want nothing but good things to happen to her but life isn’t that easy, which Aya soon realises. This is a must read for everyone!

  7. 4 out of 5

    legenbooksdary

    This story is insightful, heartwarming and about one girl's journey to fight for her rights and her dream. As the title describes it, this is Aya's journey of running away from what was once her home and leaving it behind in hopes for a better future for her family. This particular middle grade book has so much depth, Aya goes through so much and it was a very eventful ride through the end. For Aya, doing ballet is her own coping mechanism and her passion. Anybody can tell just how much she love This story is insightful, heartwarming and about one girl's journey to fight for her rights and her dream. As the title describes it, this is Aya's journey of running away from what was once her home and leaving it behind in hopes for a better future for her family. This particular middle grade book has so much depth, Aya goes through so much and it was a very eventful ride through the end. For Aya, doing ballet is her own coping mechanism and her passion. Anybody can tell just how much she loves it and I'm so glad that the people around her are so supportive. Its so nice to see that families and strangers even are willing to go to such length just to make her dream come true. I never knew about the term 'asylum seekers' let alone ever heard of it. But when Aya explained what it meant, it left me feeling so ignorant and wanting to know more about the people that had dealt through and is going through this everyday. I just assumed that everyone were refugees and I was wrong. It is heartbreaking that there are so many families out there who has no choice but to run away from everything just to live a peaceful life. There has to be a way to end their suffering and waking up everyday going through a war zone. How many people needs to suffer? How manh more children are they willing to risk it all? Its unfair and it needs to stop. Immediately. After reading this book, I feel more empathetic towards those who deal with this everyday. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have felt like to go through something as heart wrenching as that. They don't deserve the prejudice and bullying as some people give them. Instead, we must welcome and help refugees and asylum seekers because they deserve more.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christina Reid

    I feel privileged to have read this beautiful book -one that is destined to become a classic, like the books that inspired it, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and the Sadler's Wells series. The story follows Aya as she attempts to help her mother and younger brother negotiate the vagaries and difficulties of life as an asylum seeker. They have had a long, hard journey from their home in Syria in order to reach the safety of England, but it is dtill unsure if they will be able to stay or not. This bo I feel privileged to have read this beautiful book -one that is destined to become a classic, like the books that inspired it, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and the Sadler's Wells series. The story follows Aya as she attempts to help her mother and younger brother negotiate the vagaries and difficulties of life as an asylum seeker. They have had a long, hard journey from their home in Syria in order to reach the safety of England, but it is dtill unsure if they will be able to stay or not. This book gripped me from the first page, with each and every character brought to life in just a few words. From the people she meets in the commhnity centre, to those along the way on their journey, the kindness Aya and her family are met with is awe-inspiring. Yet, it is equally upsetting how much cruelty and ignorance they must overcome too. This book is both an ode to the power of dance to express emotions and change lives and an eye-opening look at the dangers causing many families to flee their homes. I read this with both a full heart at the resilience of the human spirit and tears trickling down my cheeks at the challenges Aya and her family face. Such an important and inspiring story!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tamsin Winter

    I absolutely loved this book. It tells the story of eleven-year-old Aya who is seeking asylum in Manchester with her mother and brother. An incredibly moving and important story about war, survival, friendship and the power of dance. I finished it late last night in a mess of tears, heartbreak & joy. One that will stay with me for a long time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Francesca Kennedy

    Such a powerful, moving story. This book tells the story of Aya and her terrifying journey to the U.K as well as the uncertainty of her future- being able to live in Manchester and following her dreams to become a prestigious ballet dancer. Aya's story is told with honesty and compassion, much like 'The boy at the back of the class', that tells the story of a boy seeking asylum in the U.K. They are not only well-written books but they are important stories to have in a primary classroom, they re Such a powerful, moving story. This book tells the story of Aya and her terrifying journey to the U.K as well as the uncertainty of her future- being able to live in Manchester and following her dreams to become a prestigious ballet dancer. Aya's story is told with honesty and compassion, much like 'The boy at the back of the class', that tells the story of a boy seeking asylum in the U.K. They are not only well-written books but they are important stories to have in a primary classroom, they reflect the heart-breaking realities that many children currently face but they also show how the kindness and understanding of adults and children can be so powerful.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Izzy Dorrance

    I really liked reading this book because it was a moving story. It clearly told the story of Aya who has recently moved to England as a refugee. It explores the similarities and differences between her life and the other children in England her age and how she copes with the changes in her life. The book is well written. As well as, the story being told it present day, it also contain flash backs. It is similar to ‘the boy at the back of the class’ because they both tell the story of refugee chi I really liked reading this book because it was a moving story. It clearly told the story of Aya who has recently moved to England as a refugee. It explores the similarities and differences between her life and the other children in England her age and how she copes with the changes in her life. The book is well written. As well as, the story being told it present day, it also contain flash backs. It is similar to ‘the boy at the back of the class’ because they both tell the story of refugee children. However, ‘No ballet shoes in Syria’ is told through the eyes of Aya (a refugee) unlike ‘the boy at the back of the class’. I would recommend people to read this book because it tells an important story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ella

    Burton’s book is a beautifully moving story about a young girl called Aya who completes the devastating journey from her home in Syria to England after the war enters her town. This story shows the true danger and difficultly many people face as they make similar journeys to find safety. The book fantastically highlights many themes including loss, loneliness, friendship, family and struggles. Aya takes on the role of parent in her family after they are separated from her father, looking after b Burton’s book is a beautifully moving story about a young girl called Aya who completes the devastating journey from her home in Syria to England after the war enters her town. This story shows the true danger and difficultly many people face as they make similar journeys to find safety. The book fantastically highlights many themes including loss, loneliness, friendship, family and struggles. Aya takes on the role of parent in her family after they are separated from her father, looking after both her mother and baby brother. After arriving in England she finds a ballet school and with the kindness of strangers, flourishes in her new home. This book can teach some important messages such as making children aware of what a refugee is and how countries like England can help. It also carefully shows how you don’t know other people’s stories and you should be kind to all because you might not know what others are going through. I will definitely be reading this book with upper ks2 children in the future.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maria Giraldo-Pérez

    No Ballet shoes in Syria is the gripping and thought-provoking story of Aya, an eleven-year-old girl fleeing with her family from the war-torn city of Aleppo. Aya, her mother, and baby brother Moosa, have just arrived in the U.K., and Aya is desperately trying to help them navigate their way through the vagaries and difficulties of their new and complicated life as asylum seekers in Manchester. This no easy feat, especially as they are still suffering from the trauma of the war back in Syria, th No Ballet shoes in Syria is the gripping and thought-provoking story of Aya, an eleven-year-old girl fleeing with her family from the war-torn city of Aleppo. Aya, her mother, and baby brother Moosa, have just arrived in the U.K., and Aya is desperately trying to help them navigate their way through the vagaries and difficulties of their new and complicated life as asylum seekers in Manchester. This no easy feat, especially as they are still suffering from the trauma of the war back in Syria, their perilous journey to England , and their harrowing separation from her father at sea - as well as the imminent threat of deportation. But everything begins to change when Aya rediscovers her love of ballet at Miss Helena’s class in the community centre and befriends a girl called Dotty Buchanan. Bruton’s narration is exquisite and will take the reader on a real empathy journey. Aya’s character is caring, compassionate, and courageous, and is a wonderful depiction of the true resilience and buoyancy of children. Her intermittent flashbacks to her life in Syria, the war and their journey, were in equal parts heart-wrenching, enlightening, and touching, but can make this book a difficult read in parts. Nonetheless, the story is also full of kindness and compassion and wisdom, and it shows the impact that true friendship and understanding can have on someone’s life. This book is pretty much guaranteed to make you cry! Whilst I would definitely recommend this for children aged 9+, due to its educational nature and overall outstanding quality, I would suggest that it is read with an adult. The story deals with themes such as death, loss, bereavement, depression and prejudice, and vividly depicts war zones and refugee camps. A link is also made in the story to the Holocaust and refugee Jewish children fleeing from the Nazis — which should all be discussed with care. I truly believe this is a must-read for everyone and anyone, and I think children would greatly benefit from it in order to, not only understand and sympathise with children and families seeking refuge, but to see that they are no different from us and that war and tragedy can strike anywhere.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I love this book. I am going to be telling people to read this book for years to come, I just know it. Possible idea for improvement? A GLOSSARY. I am a huge fan of helpful glossaries, and I would really have liked an illustrated glossery explaining the ballet terms. Also, the Syrian words. And the terms used to describe refugees throughout the book (asylum seekers, I can't remember now but I know there was other interesting lingo too). Okay, maybe this book needs 3 separate glossaries. I just t I love this book. I am going to be telling people to read this book for years to come, I just know it. Possible idea for improvement? A GLOSSARY. I am a huge fan of helpful glossaries, and I would really have liked an illustrated glossery explaining the ballet terms. Also, the Syrian words. And the terms used to describe refugees throughout the book (asylum seekers, I can't remember now but I know there was other interesting lingo too). Okay, maybe this book needs 3 separate glossaries. I just think it would add that extra informative layer. Let's get into all the wonderful things about this novel, shall we? This is a beautiful, simple children's book about the Syrian refugee crisis. Also, ballerinas. Aya is new to England - she's only been in Manchester for 3 weeks with her Mumma and her little brother, Moosa. She's come because her homeland, Syria, is currently torn apart by war and it's not safe for her family to live there anymore. This book is beautiful. It tells this incredibly delicate story with such sensitivity, such gentleness. Yet it never diminishes the importance of the story being told. It's a blend of Aya's ongoing present story, with flashbacks to things she has already experienced expertly woven in. The story it follows is very current. The Syrian refugee crisis is happening RIGHT NOW. But also, this book takes the opportunity to delve into the not-so-distant past to find other examples of refugees - things which the reader may or may not already be familiar with. I feel thoroughly educated after reading this book. I had never realised quite what went on - what is STILL going on - in Syria. Yes, the contents of this book are shocking. But also, portrayed in such a way that children will be able to comprehend and cope with the information. Catherine Bruton has managed to make this a hopeful story focused on the future, even though it encompasses so much pain of the past and the present. I really enjoyed reading the Afterword at the end. The author explained there how she grew up addicted to books that made you focus on your dreams, etc, but as she got older she realised the value of books that broaden your mindset. The type of books that encourage empathy towards those who have experienced trials you personally know nothing of. So when she wrote this book, she intended to blend those two themes together. I think she has done the most wonderful job.

  15. 5 out of 5

    17loweh089

    this book make you think a lot whilst reading as the story line is very relevant to the time. It is not really a fixed genre as it follows the way of life for a refugee. You learn a lot about her life and also the difficulties. I liked the ending as it didn't give false information about refugee life like some other books. I would recommend for people from 10 to adult. I like the way it shows her as a normal child with a hobby. Although it is not a very long book. this book make you think a lot whilst reading as the story line is very relevant to the time. It is not really a fixed genre as it follows the way of life for a refugee. You learn a lot about her life and also the difficulties. I liked the ending as it didn't give false information about refugee life like some other books. I would recommend for people from 10 to adult. I like the way it shows her as a normal child with a hobby. Although it is not a very long book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Leigh-Ann

    Beautiful and moving. I almost cried a little at the end. Aya's story is one that I'm sure is all too real to many immigrants and asylum seekers in the UK, and I'm also sure that some of them don't get as nice an ending as Aya's too. Though I think it was a little slow paced, the story was powerful and I think the topic was handled with care and respect. Beautiful and moving. I almost cried a little at the end. Aya's story is one that I'm sure is all too real to many immigrants and asylum seekers in the UK, and I'm also sure that some of them don't get as nice an ending as Aya's too. Though I think it was a little slow paced, the story was powerful and I think the topic was handled with care and respect.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alice Henry

    Tackles a different and topical subject but in a sensitive and hopeful way. This is an important story for our young people to read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicki

    Loved it full review to follow!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    So I read this in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down. It was so Eye opening and it was such an amazing story!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    No Ballet Shoes in Syria is such a heartfelt and thoughtful read which I am really pleased I took the time to read. The story follows Aya a 11 year old refugee who has ended up in Manchester. Following her story broke my heart as it really shows the reader exactly the sort of things she would ahve gone through to get into the country as well as the issues she was continuing to deal with whilst trying to support her mother and brother in such a new and foreign place. For me the book was very poign No Ballet Shoes in Syria is such a heartfelt and thoughtful read which I am really pleased I took the time to read. The story follows Aya a 11 year old refugee who has ended up in Manchester. Following her story broke my heart as it really shows the reader exactly the sort of things she would ahve gone through to get into the country as well as the issues she was continuing to deal with whilst trying to support her mother and brother in such a new and foreign place. For me the book was very poignant when it discussed the discrimination Aya and her family faced but also I loved the parallels it drew between modern day refugees and those from the past in particular those fleeing the holocaust. This really is the sort of book that ought to be taught and discussed in schools.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I remember reading 'Ballet Shoes' a few years back, and being very impressed with how well-written it was, with an interesting plot, realistic characters, and most of all, the unfamiliar, yet eloquently named ballet terms used in the book. I can say the same for 'No Ballet Shoes in Syria'. In this book, Aya, her mother and her baby brother are asylum seekers in Manchester, after having travelled from Syria, then to Turkey, and multiple other countries to seek asylum. From Syria, where their home I remember reading 'Ballet Shoes' a few years back, and being very impressed with how well-written it was, with an interesting plot, realistic characters, and most of all, the unfamiliar, yet eloquently named ballet terms used in the book. I can say the same for 'No Ballet Shoes in Syria'. In this book, Aya, her mother and her baby brother are asylum seekers in Manchester, after having travelled from Syria, then to Turkey, and multiple other countries to seek asylum. From Syria, where their home was bombed every day, the three make it to England, where they stay near a community centre, listening to the girls upstairs dance. Aya is a naturally gifted dancer who's worked hard to maintain her flexibility, even through the war. I loved this book, because of all the hardships Aya experienced before making it to Manchester, to her dance lessons. Her story was one that was terrifying, yet fascinating. Aya's journey throughout the book was evident-- from her five ballerina friends not knowing them, to Ciara despising her, to making friends in Manchester and finding a place at the ballet academy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    "The war came to Aleppo just after Aya's seventh birthday." "The day she realised the war had really come to Aleppo, Aya had been at a dance lesson." Aya is an eleven-year-old aspiring ballet dancer who is seeking refuge in England after fleeing from Syria. Aya is helping care for her younger brother and mother, whilst worrying whether their father will ever join them. Whilst at the community centre, Aya hears music she is drawn to and finds herself dancing towards a local ballet class. This is not "The war came to Aleppo just after Aya's seventh birthday." "The day she realised the war had really come to Aleppo, Aya had been at a dance lesson." Aya is an eleven-year-old aspiring ballet dancer who is seeking refuge in England after fleeing from Syria. Aya is helping care for her younger brother and mother, whilst worrying whether their father will ever join them. Whilst at the community centre, Aya hears music she is drawn to and finds herself dancing towards a local ballet class. This is not just a children's story about ballet, it is about survival, courage and the importance of kindness and generosity. The story switches from Aya's journey from Syria to England to present day where she is awaiting the status of her family's asylum claim and auditioning for a scholarship that would allow her to apply for a visa. I was drawn also to Miss Helena's story and Dotty's character. I wished we got more of Aya's mum and Ciara. The story ends with an opportunity to follow Aya's life but it also ends in a way I am happy with as sad as it is.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Natalie ♡

    No Ballet Shoes in Syria. - Catherine Bruton. Date Started: 3rd February 2020. Date Finished: 5th February 2020. 🚫 Warning: This review will contain spoilers. 🚫 "The party gifts were all packed away, the last of the cake eaten, but the sound of gunfire did not stop. It was surprising how quickly something like that started to feel ... normal." (p. 28) Synopsis: Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles No Ballet Shoes in Syria. - Catherine Bruton. Date Started: 3rd February 2020. Date Finished: 5th February 2020. 🚫 Warning: This review will contain spoilers. 🚫 "The party gifts were all packed away, the last of the cake eaten, but the sound of gunfire did not stop. It was surprising how quickly something like that started to feel ... normal." (p. 28) Synopsis: Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has got the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves, and to find Aya's father - separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. Things I loved about this book. Aya's character is so beautiful inside and out. I instantly fell in love with her caring, compassionate and courageous personality right from the start. Aya is the pillar for both her mother and her baby brother. Aya's mother seems to have some kind of severe depression, and is unable to provide the emotional and physical support her children need. So Aya takes the place of her mother. I absolutely loved the character of Dotty too, who becomes Aya's best friend after they meet at the ballet class. Dotty seems to be quite the opposite of Aya, yet the two get on so well throughout. This book brought me to tears on numerous occasions. When Aya comes to her ballet class wearing leggings and is asked to take them off, I knew she would be scarred somehow from the war. And I was right; she had a long scar from a shrapnel bomb which killed one of her sister's friends and injured her, as the group played a game of football before their ballet class in Aleppo. I really appreciated how the book alternates between past and present tense, so that we see the life and the pain Aya and her family had to endure before arriving to England. Also, I really felt that the background characters such as Mr Abdul and Mr and Mrs Massoud really added to the homely feel of the book, including the other girls in Aya's the ballet class, as well as Miss Helena and Miss Sylvie. Things I didn't like so much about this book. There wasn't anything I didn't particularly like about the book, hence its five star rating. I found some parts of the book difficult to read, regarding the war etc, but this is perhaps because the book is about contemporary world problems and it feels closer to home. Also, a huge part of me both hoped and expected Aya's dad to return at the end of the book. And although he didn't, the ending was still sweet. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was a quick read, and although some parts were difficult; as the book deals with war, death, injuries, depression and racism, the ending was so heart-warming and happy, and I would love to read more about Aya and her ballet adventures. "So I'm going to follow my dreams, Dad. Make something beautiful out of all this ugliness," the sweep of the dance seemed to tell him. "Because - we made it Dad. We found - home." (p. 259)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Gilmore

    It seems fitting to have read this in the week that the great Judith Kerr died, because No Ballet Shoes in Syria is indeed the Pink Rabbit/Ballet Shoes/Lorna Hill homage the reviews promised. But don't think it's a pastiche or a lazy blend of styles, it very much stands on its own, acknowledging its debt to those great books whilst carving out its own much-deserved place in the canon of great children's books. Pitch perfectly written for middle grade readers, but with the warmth, insight and int It seems fitting to have read this in the week that the great Judith Kerr died, because No Ballet Shoes in Syria is indeed the Pink Rabbit/Ballet Shoes/Lorna Hill homage the reviews promised. But don't think it's a pastiche or a lazy blend of styles, it very much stands on its own, acknowledging its debt to those great books whilst carving out its own much-deserved place in the canon of great children's books. Pitch perfectly written for middle grade readers, but with the warmth, insight and intelligence to appeal to all readers of any and every age, No Ballet Shoes is the story of Aya. a girl who has lost nearly everything, a girl who had to grow up far too soon, an under sized eleven year old in borrowed clothes who is trying to navigate a foreign adult world in a language that's not her own because her brother is just a toddler, her mother is broken and her father has disappeared. Aya is at a refugee centre, somewhere in Manchester, trying to get an overworked case worker to help her, when she hears something that make her forget where she is for one blissful moment; ballet music. Skilfully told in flashback we get to see how Aya's world changed forever, how her beloved home became a bombed out hell and why she, like thousands and thousands of others, risked their lives to leave, to become homeless and stateless. Meanwhile, in the present day, Aya's story coincides with that of another refugee, this one a kindertransport survivor, as they meet and recognise each other through Aya's love of ballet. A little Posy, a little Veronica (or Ella), a little Anna and very much herself, Aya's search for a home and her rediscovery of her love of ballet is relevant, real and utterly heartbreaking. The author says at the end that she agonised whether this was her story to tell - but she felt she had to until the day the Ayas in refugee camps and shelters have grown up and are able to tell their stories just as Judith Kerr did. This book brings the plight of refugees all over Europe and those still trapped in Syria visibly and unforgettably to life, never preaching, very much human. It should be required reading for all politicians, and read in every school. The world might be a little bit nicer if we could just recognise the person behind the label but until that day, books like this are vitally important. Highly highly recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Clark

    Having seen the movie Cave last week, I was somewhat prepared for what this book offers. What I wasn't expecting was how seamless the two stories in it would be and how well Aya's experiences would be portrayed. Told in present day, followed in most chapters by flashbacks beginning before the war in Syria broke out, this is what happened to eleven year old Aya, her physician father, her shell shocked mother and her baby brother. You first encounter Aya while she's waiting to find out whether her Having seen the movie Cave last week, I was somewhat prepared for what this book offers. What I wasn't expecting was how seamless the two stories in it would be and how well Aya's experiences would be portrayed. Told in present day, followed in most chapters by flashbacks beginning before the war in Syria broke out, this is what happened to eleven year old Aya, her physician father, her shell shocked mother and her baby brother. You first encounter Aya while she's waiting to find out whether her family, minus Dad, will be granted asylum in Great Britain. The number of hurdles this young girl must face would make most adults quail. In addition to taking on the role of family spokesperson, as she's the only one who can speak English, her paperwork keeps getting lost, the volunteers handling asylum seekers are poorly trained, not to mention feeling overwhelmed, and there is the complication that the system believes her mother asked for asylum when they arrived in Greece after nearly drowning on the nighttime crossing from Turkey. If that were the case, they would be ineligible for a second asylum request. Two things help Aya keep up the struggle, one is her connection with other refugees at the center, who start bonding with her, as well as watching out for her mother and brother after she becomes their interpreter, the other is the familiar music coming from the second floor at the refugee/community center. It's some of the same melodies she danced to in Aleppo when she took ballet lessons before the family home was bombed and they had to flee. When she investigates, she is quickly befriended by Dotty, a bubbly girl who becomes interested in Aya's scary trip to safety. While their friendship blossoms, the elderly ballerina teaching the class, a refugee herself from Hitler's terrors in Czechoslovakia, sees the hidden promise in this plucky, but vulnerable Syrian refugee. The rest of the story, and it's an amazing one, alternates between Aya's memories of the long journey to safety and the challenges she and her family face in their quest to find some stability in an unsafe world. This is a book that deserves a place in all school and public libraries, not only because of Aya's pluckiness, but because it portrays just how precarious the plight of over 11 million refugees across the globe really is.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Wadsworth

    "Wise, kind and unputdownable" said Hilary McKay in her review of this book (as advertised on the front cover) and she is right. This is the story of Aya, a Syrian refugee who loves to dance. She has been doing ballet lessons since she was 5 or so, and her ballet journey has thus far been marred by war. The war started when she was just six, with her sixth birthday party being spoilt by bombs and fighting nearby. By the time she is 11, she and her family have fled to England and are living in a "Wise, kind and unputdownable" said Hilary McKay in her review of this book (as advertised on the front cover) and she is right. This is the story of Aya, a Syrian refugee who loves to dance. She has been doing ballet lessons since she was 5 or so, and her ballet journey has thus far been marred by war. The war started when she was just six, with her sixth birthday party being spoilt by bombs and fighting nearby. By the time she is 11, she and her family have fled to England and are living in a bedsit and trying to get their asylum status granted. Aya spends all day at the community centre hoping to be seen by the case workers and get a court date and be told whether they can stay or not. While she is there, she hears music playing, investigates and discovers a ballet class taking place in another part of the building. Over time, she plucks up the courage to join the class and is clearly very talented. The teacher encourages Aya to audition for the Royal Northern Dance School, where she will be able to apply for a student visa to stay in the country. But what about her mum, who is struggling with depression after losing her husband on the journey to England, and with a lack of English, and with Aya's toddler brother, Moosa? Then the court date for their decision clashes with the audition and Aya can't focus properly... This story was really moving. It was simple and straight forward, it tells the fear of a child dealing with things they should have to deal with, with relationships between parents, between siblings, between friends. Aya has to cope with the loss of her home, the loss of her father, which is something no child should have to deal with, especially in those circumstances, but she also has to deal with the staring and the nastiness of some of the girls in the class, and then understand why those things happen, which make her a very normal girl indeed. Aya was lovely, and I wanted to hug her, and her friend Dotty was just brilliant - I saw a lot of myself in Dotty, except I can't dance... :D I would highly recommend this book to anyone, especially people who have misgivings over letting refugees into our country. Remember that there are lots of stories like Aya's, that are real and heartbreaking, and they need our help.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Blake Bramley

    This one was so closed to making me cry! A beautiful story, full of emotion, empathy, and kindness. Of course, the general story of this book is quite clear from the title. I'm sure you can guess the relatively simple plot, the issues raised, and the dark topics it handles. I think, instead of describing the plot or characters as a way to entice you in, I'd like to highlight a few of my favourite elements of the book that really make it a 5 star read in my mind. As a teaching student, I have to ack This one was so closed to making me cry! A beautiful story, full of emotion, empathy, and kindness. Of course, the general story of this book is quite clear from the title. I'm sure you can guess the relatively simple plot, the issues raised, and the dark topics it handles. I think, instead of describing the plot or characters as a way to entice you in, I'd like to highlight a few of my favourite elements of the book that really make it a 5 star read in my mind. As a teaching student, I have to acknowledge that this book is written by an English teacher, based in my home county, and educated in the same city I am now studying in (all of which I found out after reading and relating to the setting descriptions a little too much). I could clearly see that this was written by someone who has experienced children, and truly understands the ways they learn, think, and survive. The characterisation of the children and their struggles was perfectly relatable for young readers, the parents and community characters were realistic, and the ways that the book tackled, unravelled and explained difficult and emotional subjects was well balanced and enlightening. I also need to mention the beautiful parallels that this book placed centre stage: the intense similarities of refugees throughout time- in this example, modern day Syrian refugees vs the Kindertransport of WW2. It reminded me of a video I was shown in a lecture this year, where a young Syrian boy, talked with an elderly gentleman who survived the Second World War, sharing their experiences and the ways in which history continuous to repeat itself. Until recently I had never thought to use these comparisons as a way to help children understand, but if we can teach them about WW2 as we do on the curriculum, helping them learn empathy for children who were evacuated or forced out of their homes, I see no reason why we cannot also teach them our current world issues through that same understanding. It takes book like this to truly help children, and adults alike, to see the damage our apathy can cause to the people around us, and how we can help those both close to us, and across the world, in need of it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    TheCosyDragon

    Aya, and Mumma and Moosie are waiting for dad to appear to continue on with their lives. But he’s lost, and without him the family is adrift in an alien world. Aya is the one looking after Mumma and Moosie and helping them claim asylum – but is there time for her own ballet dreams as well? I loved Moosie! Aya’s interactions with him really brought her to life for me. Her friendship with Dotty made me feel a bit ambivalent, because Dotty made me feel angry in a way – how inconsiderate she is, and Aya, and Mumma and Moosie are waiting for dad to appear to continue on with their lives. But he’s lost, and without him the family is adrift in an alien world. Aya is the one looking after Mumma and Moosie and helping them claim asylum – but is there time for her own ballet dreams as well? I loved Moosie! Aya’s interactions with him really brought her to life for me. Her friendship with Dotty made me feel a bit ambivalent, because Dotty made me feel angry in a way – how inconsiderate she is, and how nice Aya is in comparison. But I’m sure Aya wasn’t nice all the time either – what 11 year old can do that all the time? I admit that I didn’t like the title. There were, in fact, ballet shoes in Syria. That’s how Aya learned to dance after all! And she managed to find ballet teachers in most of her stopping places on the way to Europe too. I liked how although she had natural talent, we saw her working really hard as well. I did particularly like the full circle of Aya and her new ballet teacher’s lives. I guess I can’t say more without giving one of the major tear-jerking plot points away. It’s scary to draw parallels between fleeing the Nazi invasions and fleeing war torn middle eastern countries. It must be so difficult being an asylum seeker. At least in Britain they’re allowed out into the community – in Australia we lock them up behind barbed wire and turn their leaking boats away. It is amazing the way humans can treat other humans so poorly. We should be asking refugees what makes them so resilient and resourceful. This middle grade novel fits a niche that I think will resonate well with grade 5 and 6 readers. If you’re looking for a slightly more teenage version of this novel, I could suggest When Michael met Mina or even You Must Be Layla (again, quite middle grade). These are not strictly refugee novels, but have similar issues of being different for reasons you can’t change. 3 stars from me, and 4 stars for its intended audience. Did you enjoy this goodreads review? If so you may find it useful to visit my blog The Cosy Dragon . I regularly post new reviews on a variety of genres.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andreia

    I am very obviously not the target demographic for this book but I read the synopsis on my library app and thought it sounded interesting, and it was short enough for me to get through in a single sitting so 🤷🏾‍♀️ why not! Despite me not being the target audience for this story, I thought it was a worthwhile read anyways. Sure, the writing wasn't anything spectacular and the plot a bit simplistic despite the serious subject matter, the message behind the words was very important and something chi I am very obviously not the target demographic for this book but I read the synopsis on my library app and thought it sounded interesting, and it was short enough for me to get through in a single sitting so 🤷🏾‍♀️ why not! Despite me not being the target audience for this story, I thought it was a worthwhile read anyways. Sure, the writing wasn't anything spectacular and the plot a bit simplistic despite the serious subject matter, the message behind the words was very important and something children should definitely be exposed to. My main critique of this book is that due to the author being white and British, the story lacks certain nuances that I feel would have elevated the story and garnered a stronger emotional response. I am aware that the author did her research and consulted with British-Syrian people and refugees; that is clear to see in the text through specific vocabulary, cultural foods written about, and region specific names also used for some characters. However, due to the story being written through a white, western lens it lacks the rawness and emotional connection from someone who has had a lived or adjacent experience to Aya's story. At times it felt like I was reading a cut and dry "idea" of what a refugees story should look like, though I am sure that is partly due to the story being targeted towards children and I am very obviously not a child. In terms of the plot and characters, nothing to write home about. It was a fairly generic and simple plot and the ending was a little too neat for my liking, but again, this is likely due to this book being for a middle grade audience. The characters were also not massively fleshed out and many of them (particularly Dotty) sometimes felt like caricatures. Overall 2.5-3*. Not for me, for obvious reasons, but I can see the importance of a story like this for younger audiences.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lily MacDonald

    No Ballet Shoes in Syria is the tale of eleven year old Aya who has just arrived in the UK with her mother and baby brother Moosa, seeking asylum from war-torn Syria. Due to her mother's poor health after the birth of her baby brother and the strenuous journey to Britain, Aya is given the responsibility of navigating her family's way through the asylum system. With the threat of deportation looming, Aya and her family must fight to make the UK a home. Continuous flashbacks of her life in Syria, a No Ballet Shoes in Syria is the tale of eleven year old Aya who has just arrived in the UK with her mother and baby brother Moosa, seeking asylum from war-torn Syria. Due to her mother's poor health after the birth of her baby brother and the strenuous journey to Britain, Aya is given the responsibility of navigating her family's way through the asylum system. With the threat of deportation looming, Aya and her family must fight to make the UK a home. Continuous flashbacks of her life in Syria, and harrowing thoughts of her father lost on the journey to the UK, means nothing is easy. However, things start to change when Aya discovers Miss Helena's ballet class, reinstalling her love for dance. Aya's talent is quickly noticed by Miss Helena and, with the help of her new friend Dotty, Aya is encouraged to apply for a scholarship at a prestigious dance school. This experience would not only allow Aya to pursue her passion, but it also promises a secure and permanent home in the UK. Bruton tells Aya's story with compassion and empathy. Aya is truly someone that you would want to befriend - she is courageous, caring and resilient despite the difficulties she has encountered. The flashbacks that Bruton details of Aya's life in Syria and her journey to the UK are heart-wrenching and at times difficult to read, which is why I would recommend this book to children age 9+ (or Year 5 and above). Some themes, such as death, prejudice and also the Holocaust are discussed, so the book should be approached with caution. However, there are some important lessons to learn - the struggles that asylum seekers face is a key one, but also lessons of kindness, inclusion and compassion, and how important these qualities are.

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