Cover image for Refugee / Alan Gratz.
Refugee / Alan Gratz.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Press, 2017.
Physical Description:
338 pages : maps ; 22 cm
Although separated by continents and decades, Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to escape the riots and unrest plaguing her country in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 whose homeland is torn apart by violence and destruction, embark on harrowing journeys in search of refuge, discovering shocking connections that tie their stories together.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
GRA Book Teen Collection
GRA Book Junior Collection

On Order



JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .

ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .

MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .

All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers -- from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow . And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.

Author Notes

Alan Gratz is the acclaimed author of several books for young readers, including Prisoner B-3087 , which was named to YALSA's 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list; Code of Honor , a YALSA 2016 Quick Pick; Projekt 1065 ; and The Brooklyn Nine , which was among Booklist 's Top Ten Sports Books. Alan lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Look for him online at

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The trenchant audio edition of Gratz's middle grade novel employs the voices of three actor to tell the interwoven stories of three young refugees. Actor Goldstrom convincingly portrays 12-year-old Josef, who escapes persecution and murder in Germany in 1938. Listeners can hear the loss of innocence in Josef's voice as he goes from anticipating becoming a bar mitzvah to becoming the head of the family after his father is murdered. Voice artist Garcia skillfully narrates the plight of 11-year-old Isabel and the Fernandez family during their harrowing 90-mile escape from Cuba to Miami on a boat in 1994. Actor Cohen dramatizes the horror of the ongoing Syrian crises in reading the story 12-year-old Mahmoud and his family, who are fleeing from the current, devastating civil war in Syria. His portrayal of Mahmoud's optimistic father gives some relief to the grim circumstances that befall the family on their way to sanctuary in Germany. This well done performance is a timely work that will undoubtedly help young listeners think critically about the circumstances of children beyond their own comfortable borders. Ages 9-12. A Scholastic hardcover. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Gratzs stirring novel humanizes the plight of refugees worldwide. Told in alternating chapters, the book follows fictional child refugees from three different eras whose stories ultimately, and surprisingly, converge. In 1939 Josef and his family, who are Jewish, hope to escape Nazi Germany on the notorious MS St. Louis bound for Cuba. Fifty-plus years later, Isabels family and their neighbors sail a homemade boat toward Miami away from riots and starvation in Havana. And in 2015 Mahmoud and his family flee war-torn Aleppo by foot, car, and raft to build a new life in Germany. Gratz doesnt downplay the trials that refugees endure, as discrimination, betrayal, death, and the elements themselves bar the way. The narrative keeps readers on edge throughout these perilous, wrenching journeys but allows for suitably poetic turns during quieter moments of reflection: This trip, this odyssey, was pulling his family apart, stripping them away like leaves from the trees in the fall. An appended authors note details the true circumstances that inspired Gratzs story and includes organizations that help refugees today, reinforcing the novels timely reminder of humanitys common ground and the need for kindness and charitable actions toward displaced persons. russell perry (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Pak! A pistol rang out again over the waves, and the crowd on the beach cried out in panic. The pistol fired again -- pak! -- and -- ping! -- the hull of the Castillos' boat rang as the bullet hit it. The police were shooting at them! But why? Didn't Castro say it was all right to leave? Isabel's eyes fell on Luis and his girlfriend, and she understood. They had been drafted into the police, and they weren't allowed to leave. They were deserters, and deserters were shot. The motor coughed to life, and the boat lurched into a wave, spraying Isabel with seawater. The villagers on the beach cheered for them, and Sr. Castillo revved the engine, leaving the charging policemen in their wake. Isabel braced herself between two of the benches, trying to catch her breath. It took her a moment to process it, but this was really happening. They were leaving Cuba, her village, her home -- everything she'd ever known -- behind. Isabel's father pitched across the roiling boat and grabbed Sr. Castillo by the shirt. "What are you playing at, letting them on board?" he demanded. "What if they follow us? What if they send a navy boat after us? You've put us all in danger!" Sr. Castillo batted Geraldo Fernandez's arms away. "We didn't ask you to come along!" "It's our gasoline!" Isabel's father yelled. They kept arguing, but the engine and the slap of the boat against the waves drowned their words out for Isabel. She wasn't paying any attention anyway. All she could think about was the ninety miles they still had to go, and the water pouring in from the gunshot hole in the side of the boat. Excerpted from Refugee by Alan Gratz All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.