Book Club Spotlight – When Stars are Scattered

Cover for When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Two young Somali boys walk together, shoeless, through a encampment. They are smiling hopefully up at the night sky.

Happy Black History Month from Book Club Spotlight! The theme for 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts,” which honors the incredible contributions of African Americans to culture, music, art, and literature. And what better combination of art and literature is there than graphic novels? So, to wrap up our mini-series, we will follow young Somali refugees displaced by civil war. Where the Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, is based on the childhood of Mohamed, who grew up in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. The list of honors for this book is massive, including being a National Book Award Finalist, the School Library Journal Best Book of 2020, and a 2021-22 Golden Sower Chapter Book Nominee.

Omar and his brother Hassan have been in the Dadaab refugee camp for seven years! Without their parents, the boys live on their own, watched over by an aging foster mother, Fatuma. Having the responsibility of caring for himself and his nonverbal brother, everyday Omar must clean the floorless tent they sleep on, hide any valuables from thieves, and wait. Wait for water, wait for food, wait for his mother to find them, wait for the war to end, and wait to leave the refugee camp. When Omar gets a chance to attend school, he is far behind other children his age, and soon, the pressure of school and chores begins to make him angry and resentful. As he grows and becomes continually frustrated with his situation, he sees how everyone else is stuck just like him—especially the girls, who, like Omar, are burdened with too many responsibilities. With encouragement from his friends and community, Omar grows more confident in his abilities and in Hassan and starts dreaming about a future outside the camp. And one day, Omar’s and Hassan’s names are called for an interview with the UN for a chance to finally leave Dadaab, an exciting and terrifying possibility. 

“It was nice talking like this. Pretending we were normal kids, with normal futures to look forward too”

– Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed

Written for middle grades and up, all will be deeply moved by reading this graphic novel. With wars waging worldwide, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed and powerless, and listening to stories of those going through these tough times matters. When Stars are Scattered is an excellent representation of the day-to-day life in refugee camps. Maybe your Book Club Group wants to learn more about what life is like for refugees, or your students have questions about what is happening to displaced children like them. Since moving to America, Mohamed has dedicated his life to serving his community back in Dadaab and improving the living conditions of refugees, especially young girls through his nonprofit foundation, Refugee Strong.

“Please take away from the reading of this book an understanding that you should never give up hope. In the camp, we were given courage by our faith to always be patient and to never lose hope. Things may seem impossible, but if you keep working hard and believe in yourself, you can overcome anything in your path. I hope my story will inspire you to always persevere.” 

Omar Mohamed

If you’re interested in requesting When Stars are Scattered for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

To see more of our Black Voices book club titles, visit here.

Jamieson, Victoria & Mohamed, Omar. When Stars are Scattered. Penguin Random House. 2020

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