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Reviewed by Gina Speedy, School Counsellor, Kuranui College, Wairarapa
Opening sentence
’It is only in holy places of worship and libraries that you have to whisper, for they are both sacred in their own special ways.’
Courage and loyalty are central themes in this heart-warming historical-fiction novel.

As a local Muslim girl, 10-year old Safiyyah’s ordinary life is upended when the Germans come to town. Tension builds near the Paris mosque in which she lives. Bombs drop and soldiers search the streets for Jews. Safiyyah’s family must risk everything to help themselves and others.

What stands out is Safiyyah’s compassionate and determined nature. She readily sacrifices for the good of others, such as when she helps her father with his secretive resistance work. Moments of danger and suspense are navigated beautifully for a young audience and balanced by touching moments between Safiyyah and her loved ones.

Noor Khan has cleverly taken elements of real events during wartime, revealing them through the eyes of an inquisitive child. The Grand Mosque in Paris secretly helped Jews against the Nazis in WW2 and inspired Noor Khan to write this story.

This novel would make a wonderful read aloud, especially if themes of religion and tolerance were being explored. For a young child, perhaps recently introduced to the concept of war, it invites thoughtful conversations.

This book is for the curious child and will leave the reader wondering if they’d be so brave.
Author & Illustrator: Hiba Noor Khan
Publisher: Anderson Press
ISBN: 9781839133138
Format: Paperback
Publication: Jul 2023
Ages: 9-14 years
Themes: War, religion, tolerance and courage