Onjali Q. Raúf’s Refugee Story Chosen for Young City Reads 2019


‘I am utterly thrilled to have had ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ chosen for Young City Reads! It is such an honour. I hope all human ‘beans’ (of every age!) reading and engaging with it, reach its end feeling a little more understanding and hopeful about what we can all do to ease the plight of refugee children the world over. Sometimes the best, most joyous things start with a story, and my deepest wish for this book is that it helps inspire lots of interesting discussions and ideas about one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our times. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to make this happen.’  Onjali Q. Raúf, Young City Reads author 2019

Collected Works CIC and Brighton Festival are delighted to reveal that Onjali Q. Raúf’s

The Boy at the Back of the Class has been chosen as the 2019 big read for children across Brighton & Hove, Sussex and beyond. The concept of YOUNG CITY READS is simple – one book, by one author is selected for the whole community to read, explore, discuss and creatively engage with.


The Boy at the Back of the Class (which has just been long listed for the Blue Peter Book Awards and nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2019) is the story of new boy Ahmet, a refugee from Syria. It is told from the point of view of one of his classmates who goes to great lengths to make friends and give Ahmet a sense of belonging. The unexpected adventure that follows strikes the perfect balance between humour and poignancy, topped off with a terrific twist. The result is an unforgettable story that will find a home in the heart of every child. Onjali Q. Raúf portrays the refugee crisis through the eyes of a child in a way that’s accessible, warm and funny. It’s a story about friendship and how naturally children celebrate, rather than fear, all our differences.


  • 7th March 2019 (World Book Day) Young City Reads launches. Targeted schools receive free activities linked to the book’s themes at Brighton & Hove Libraries.
  • 22 May 2019 (Brighton Festival) Young City Reads celebration event at Brighton Festival featuring the author LIVE.

Sarah Hutchings, Director of Collected Works CIC said:
‘We are thrilled that Onjali Q. Raúf has agreed to be the Young City Reads Author for 2019. Her book ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ has all the qualities that we look for – empathy, kindness, adventure and humour. In 2018, nearly 2,000 children took part in the project with 1,438 coming to the final event at Brighton Festival. I know that our Young City Readers will love getting to know Ahmet and his friends.’

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said:

‘Young City Reads is such an inspiring way to encourage more children to enjoy reading and express their ideas creatively. ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’, is a perfect choice for Brighton Festival 2019, as we welcome Malian musician Rokia Traoré as our Guest Director. The book’s messages of friendship, kindness and celebrating difference should be shared now more than ever.’


  • Primary school teachers and classes are being invited to register online (for FREE) and agree to read The Boy At The Back of the Class together in class between (7 March – 22 May 2019). The Class Teacher or Head Teacher SIGN UP NOW
  • Throughout the project, participating classes will receive FREE weekly e-bulletins which will include bite-size The Boy at the Back of the Class literacy resources and fun activities to complete.
  • This is a great way for classes to get excited about a book and to experience the benefits of shared reading and the fun it brings.

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