Escape from Syria

Escape from Syria

4.11 (726 ratings by Goodreads)
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Children's Choice Winner (ages 12 to 16 category) at the 2018 School Library Association Information Book of the Year Awards.

"In league with Art Spiegelman's Maus and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, this is a must-purchase for any teen or adult graphic novel collection." -School Library Journal (starred review).

From the pen of former Daily Star (Lebanon) reporter Samya Kullab comes a breathtaking and hard-hitting story of one family's struggle to survive in the face of war, displacement, poverty and relocation.

Escape from Syria is a fictionalized account that calls on reallife circumstances and true tales of refugee families to serve as a microcosm of the Syrian uprising and the war and refugee crisis that followed.

The story spans six years in the lives of Walid, his wife Dalia, and their two children, Amina and Youssef. Forced to flee from Syria, they become asylum-seekers in Lebanon, and finally resettled refugees in the West. It is a story that has been replayed thousands of times by
other families.

When the family home in Aleppo is destroyed by a government-led bomb strike, Walid has no choice but to take his wife and children and flee their war-torn and much loved homeland. They struggle to survive in the wretched refugee camps of Lebanon, and when Youssef becomes fatally ill as a result of the poor hygienic conditions, his father is forced to take great personal risk to save his family.

Walid's daughter, the young Amina, a whip-smart grade-A student, tells the story. As she witnesses firsthand the harsh realities that her family must endure if they are to survive - swindling smugglers, treacherous ocean crossings, and jihadist militias - she is forced to grow up very quickly in order to help her parents and brother.

Kullab's narrative masterfully maps both the collapse and destruction of Syria, and the real-life tragedies faced by its citizens still today. The family's escape from their homeland makes for a harrowing tale, but with their safe arrival in the West it serves as a hopeful endnote to this ongoing worldwide crisis.

Beautiful illustrations by Jackie Roche - whose work on the viral web-comic, Syria's Climate Conflict, was seen prominently in, and, among others - bring Kullab's words to life in stunning imagery that captures both the horror of war and the dignity of human will.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 96 pages
  • 203 x 255 x 7.62mm | 450g
  • Ontario, Canada
  • English
  • 96pp clr illus
  • 0228102774
  • 9780228102779
  • 1,092,651

Review quote

[hardcover edition: ] USBBY's 2018 Outstanding International Books List--Martha M. Walke"School Library Journal" (02/01/2018) [hardcover edition: ] Winner, Children's Choice Award, 12-16 years old--School Library Association (11/07/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] (starred review) In Aleppo City, in 2013, young Amina's life is changed forever when a bomb destroys her neighborhood and her family joins the millions of refugees fleeing Syria. In this graphic novel, Amina uses flashbacks and spare text to narrate her journey from living a happy life in Syria to resettling in Canada as a refugee. Amina is a bright student whose favorite part of the day is returning home from school, where she is greeted warmly by her grandfather and then reads books in the home of her uncle, a professor. This life ends with an explosion on the second page. Her family flees to Lebanon, where they end up in a refugee camp when their savings run out. Amina is lucky to get a spot in the overcrowded schools, but when her brother falls ill, the family must make a series of heartbreaking decisions in order to pay for his lifesaving medications. When the stress of renewing expensive visas becomes too much and unethical smugglers make life impossible, Amina finally finds help with a resettling agency. The story wraps up quickly from there. Based on Kullab's extensive experience with refugees, the novel skillfully depicts situations and drastic decisions many Syrian refugees face. The graphic-novel format is perfect for the story, using cinematic techniques to propel the story and adding poignant notes, as when Amina's father reads a text message asking for help and conceals it from her. Extensive endnotes highlight the true events referenced in the book. Groundbreaking and unforgettable.-- (08/27/2017) [Review of hardcover edition: ] (starred review) This is a collaborative masterpiece: Kullab, a reporter who has an extensive background covering conflicts in Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq, has teamed up with cartoonist Roche to deliver this emotional narrative. Kullab begins Amina's story in media res, immersing the audience into a fully realized world with strong characters. Roche's colorful illustrations, with cartoon characters and immaculately detailed scenery, provide emotion and heart... Amina's story closely mirrors real historical events, and Syria feels like a developing protagonist in the plot. There are moments of graphic violence and the depictions of war-torn landscapes feature wounded soldiers and corpses... This is a must-purchase for any teen or adult graphic novel collection.-- (12/01/2017) [Review of hardcover edition: ] (starred) A gripping portrait of an ongoing worldwide crisis.--The Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books f (03/01/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] A fictional graphic novel that is very much realistic... The author does a fantastic job of making us see the options refugees have and understand the sacrifices that must be made in different cases for security purposes.-- (10/14/2017) [Review of hardcover edition: ] A fictionalized graphic novel account that calls on real-life circumstances and true tales of refugee families to serve as a microcosm of the Syrian uprising and the war and refugee crisis that followed... Samya Kullab is a journalist based in the Middle East covering security, politics and refugees. Jackie Roche is a freelance cartoonist and illustrator. They seamlessly collaborate in "Escape from Syria", where Kullab's narrative masterfully maps both the collapse and destruction of Syria, and the real-life tragedies faced by its citizens still today. The family's escape from their homeland makes for a harrowing tale, but with their safe arrival in the West it serves as a hopeful endnote to this ongoing worldwide crisis. A fascinating, informative, and truly memorable story, "Escape from Syria" is an especially recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections. This is one of those graphic novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf.-- (01/01/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] Despite dealing with weighty political issues, the book is highly accessible and would be a useful introduction to students interested in learning more about the Syrian conflict. In an appendix, Kullab also expands on many of the issues mentioned throughout the text, providing appropriate context to a complex situation... This is an important book that provides a humanizing look at the horrific experiences of Syrian refugees and their quest for freedom.-- (02/01/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] Escape from Syria is both a very human drama and an informative account of the socio-poltical complexities of life in the region... Kullab effectively condenses involved subject matter into understandable summaries without compromising the integrity of her storytelling... Jackie Roche's art is accessible throughout with her expressive depiction of the cast playing a large role in the audience's empathetic connection with them. While her visual storytelling adopts a largely traditional use of layouts those moments of high drama are rendered all the more dramatic for their sudden use of unconventional panel arrangements. This is highly effective in communicating the trauma and panic of the opening explosion scene, for example, or a later sequence where a boat full of refugees capsizes... Mike Freiheit's often carefully subdued colouring choices also add to the book's tense atmosphere... This is an excellent starting point for a younger demographic in understanding both the underlying reasons behind the news stories and the plight of those impacted.-- (03/20/2019) [Review of hardcover edition: ] In this harrowing and timely tale of courage and determination, Amina narrates her family's odyssey after their home in Aleppo is destroyed. They must endure refugee camps, risk ocean crossings and escape the terror of jihadist militias in order to reach safety in Canada.-- (09/01/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] In Escape from Syria, Kullab creates a composite young Syrian girl, Amina, a straight-A student from a solid middle-class family. Amina, her younger brother, and her parents flee Aleppo with only what they can carry. In Lebanon, they struggle to make ends meet in a UNHCR camp. Amina leaves school to work, the family stops renewing their visas, and her brother falls ill. Amina's family is one of the lucky few; eventually, they are recommended by a UN worker to be relocated and are resettled in Canada. The author clearly has an agenda: show every bad thing that is happening (or has happened) to Syrian refugees in a clear format that can be read by a wide-ranging audience. An appendix provides references and statistics to back up each event... It is easily accessible, authoritative, and well documented, and would be appropriate as an entry-level volume into recent Syrian history for a wide-ranging audience.-- (12/01/2017) [Review of hardcover edition: ] In 2014, a phrase was anonymously spray-painted on a wall in Homs, Syria: "When I leave, be sure I tried everything in my power to stay." This poignant graffiti reverberates throughout Escape from Syria... Jackie Roche's drawings and Mike Freiheit's colour work add intensity and solidify the strong emotional engagement Kullab creates. Feelings of anger and fear are conveyed beautifully with thick black brush strokes where the page's white gutter usually lies... There are big visual moments in Escape From Syria, but the subtle ones are even more effective.-- (12/01/2017) [Review of hardcover edition: ] It is important for middle and high school students (and adults as well) to read this story. It puts a face, albeit imagined, to the very real circumstances that force people to leave everything they have always known and make a new life. It is powerfully told and provides a face for them to remember as they listen to continuing news reports. Heartbreaking and hopeful, memorable and mind-boggling.-- (04/10/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] Kullab based this graphic novel on her personal observations from reporting in Syria. She does not shy away from difficult issues... Facts about the Syrian situation are interwoven into the story to help readers understand the political and economic circumstances that led to the refugee crisis... Tells a story of survival and hope.-- (06/01/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] My heart is low and cracked after reading this graphic novel. It is important and beautiful. But it is heartbreaking and real. The story of this family, their journey from home to refugee to new home is almost too hard to read. Samya Kullab and Jackie Roche have done an unbelievable job crafting this piece of historical fiction.-- (05/08/2019) [Review of hardcover edition: ] Readers will experience the Syrian refugee crisis through Amina's eyes and will identify with her feelings of fear and unease, her ambition to succeed in school and her horror when her mother suggests she marry at 13. Roche's artwork is clean and crisp and uses varying background colour palettes throughout the book to convey specific emotions. Roche's skill at capturing emotion in facial expressions also creates a deep impact. Escape from Syria is an intense but timely read, and can be used by teachers and parents as a tool to discuss war, displacement, racism and tragedy. It is an authentic portrayal of the refugee experience and deeply relevant to Canada's role in helping displaced Syrians.-- (03/01/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] Roche's artwork will appeal to young adults for its stark realism. This is an important attempt to explain the background of the war in Syria and the problems faced by those who try to escape its horrors.-- (12/09/2017) [Review of hardcover edition: ] The book describes with precision what is happening to refugees in the camps, bringing us to meet many different refugees with different points of view on the situation. What particularly impressed me was the author's courage in addressing a number of political topics, such as how the roots of the war lie in the time of Hafez al-Assad, who came to power in a military coup in 1970, and the repression suffered by the Syrian people under his reign and that of his son Bashar. It describes the suffering of citizens living under Daesh -- who went from the frying pan into the fire -- with great tenderness. I was left feeling nothing but a deep sympathy for the family of Walid. I felt like I was there with them; feeling their grief and their fear, as though I were one of them... The illustrations are evocative, and you can tell what a character is thinking by looking at their features. You will also 'feel' the beauty of Aleppo before the war, and the sorrow of what happened to it during the conflict... The book was a worthy experience, and at the end the reader will be even more sympathetic with Syrian refugees, wherever they are.--Ahmed Salah Al-Mahdi"Oye! Times" (12/13/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] The family's suffering is horrifying and heartbreaking, but the characters' resourcefulness and strength bring hope to their tale of hardship... This book succeeds in offering information alongside a compelling narrative, all the while keeping the focus on the characters and their relationships. Back matter includes photographs that put moments from the story in historical context.-- (01/01/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] The story Kullab tells here is a fictionalized one, and it comes from the point of view of a young girl named Amina. But it's a tale that could be true for countless refugee families during the Syrian uprising and subsequent refugee crisis... Kullab and Roche do not hold back: The story authentically captures the violence and harrowing moments of the family's experience. As it should be. The more poignant, heart-wrenching moments, many between Amina and her parents, will linger with readers, and the book will go far in helping many American middle and high-schoolers understand the complexities of the humanitarian crisis in Syria.-- (10/27/2017) [Review of hardcover edition: ] This is a powerful, eye-opening graphic novel that will foster empathy and understanding in readers of all ages.--Shannon Ozirny"The Globe and Mail" (11/10/2017) [Review of hardcover edition: ] Uses striking images and powerful words to map the difficult journey a family makes as they flee Aleppo out of fear for their lives and describe their struggle to survive as refugees. This book provides direct connections to current events involving refugees and helps counter stereotypes that many people have about the reasons why people become refugees. I recommend the book to students who are interested in the current refugee crisis and want something accessible and quick to read.-- (10/22/2019) [Review of hardcover edition: ] With Escape from Syria journalist Samya Kullab draws on her experience reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis, crafting a poignant, illuminating fictional tale. Amina and her family's life in Aleppo City is disrupted when war erupts. After the marketplace is bombed, they journey to a refugee camp in Lebanon. The family's money begins to run out, and the marginalization of Syrians by the Lebanese government leaves them vulnerable. Eventually they get the chance at a new life in Canada. Kullab presents a clear time line of events, lucidly describing the long-term causes of the war and its effects. Jackie Roche and Mike Freiheit's gentle cartoon artwork tempers the upsetting elements (bloodshed, warfare, a harrowing attempt to flee by boat) without glossing over the horrors. The illustrations emphasize concrete details, such as Amina packing a teddy bear or helping her dad navigate the bus in Toronto, making the story all the more relatable. Copious endnotes offer additional explanations (definitions of Arabic words, discussions of the rise of ISIS). Readers will be both moved and enlightened by this insightful introduction.-- (01/09/2018) [Review of hardcover edition: ] Written by a former reporter for the Lebanon Star and illustrated by Roche in stark, vivid panel sequences, this frank graphic novel opens in 2013 Aleppo as the neighborhood greengrocer greets studious Amina on her way home from school. Suddenly, everything is chaos as an explosion rips through the neighborhood. Though the political situation has been deteriorating, this event signals the need to Amina's father: "Dad said all was lost. We had to leave." In a camp in Lebanon, refugees from Syria are kept isolated. There's little work and little food. Amina's dreams of further education evaporate into a haze of debt and fear; a friend of hers is married at 13. When the family gets an offer to resettle in Canada, Amina's mother hesitates; in a heartbreaking sequence, a bus trip back to Syria shows her that "home" doesn't exist anymore, and she agrees to leave. Kullab's story focuses less on emigration and more on the process by which ordinary families become the faceless refugees of news reports. When readers next hear news about Syria, they will likely remember Amina.--Publishers Weekly (09/11/2017)
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About Samya Kullab

Samya Kullab is a journalist based in the Middle East covering security, politics and refugees. She has worked in Lebanon, Turkey, the West Bank and Gaza, and Iraq for a variety of international media outlets. She was a reporter with Lebanon's The Daily Star for three years.

Jackie Roche is a freelance cartoonist and illustrator whose work has been published in outlets including Fusion, Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication, The Nib, and anthologies including Sweaty Palms and Colonial Comics: New England, 1750-1775 (vol. II).
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Rating details

726 ratings
4.11 out of 5 stars
5 33% (242)
4 47% (338)
3 18% (131)
2 2% (13)
1 0% (2)
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