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K-12 Evaluated Resource Collection

Welcome to Nowhere

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Author/Publisher/Website: Laird, E.
Copyright: 2017
Evaluation/Record Entry Date: Nov/2019
Submitting suppliers/Website: Not Available
Primary Identifier: 9781509853441
Recommended Grades and Subjects/Courses: 4-7
(View recommended grades and subjects)

Resource Description

Set during the ongoing civil war in Syria, twelve-year-old Omar is resourceful and resilient in the face of violence, frightening situations, the threat of bombings, and imminent death—a reality for the children and families in other parts of the world affected by war. The rich characterizations and experiences of Omar and his family members allow readers to relate to and appreciate the diversities of other cultures. Suitable for intermediate students, this fictional novel tells a story based on the real experiences the author heard in Jordanian refugee camps. The story of a family who must leave their home behind and risk everything to escape their war-torn country will present opportunities to explore the harrowing effects of civil war on children around the world; discussions about how these situations can affect families may be broached, in particular in communities that have taken in refugees.


Does the resource support BC curriculum?
This product supports the Core Competencies of the BC curriculum:
Critical thinking
Social Responsibility
“Welcome to Nowhere” extensively supports the BC curriculum in Grade 4–7 Language Arts in that exploring the civil war in Syria through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy, “stories can extend thinking of ourselves and help us to make connections to others and to the world.” The Grade 6 Social Studies curriculum is supported in that “complex global problems require international cooperation,” and “systems of government vary in their respect for human rights and freedoms.” It also supports the Core Competency of Social Responsibility as it relates to global issues, human rights and valuing diversity.


Gender Roles, Identity & Sexual Orientation:
The story is set in Syria during the ongoing civil war. Defined roles for males and females are depicted. The father is the head of the family and dictates what family members can and cannot do. In one instance, he arranges a marriage for his teenage daughter, though it never occurs. When he dies, his eldest son—a teenager—begins to take over the role of the head of the household until circumstances change and the mother asserts herself.
One major character suffers from cerebral palsy and is sometimes called names or plays up his disability to keep himself safe. For most of the story he is depicted as a strong and intelligent character.
Set during the Syrian civil war, there is the constant threat of bombings, of people fearing arrest, and of imminent death. A character is accused of rape, and though it is only mentioned, it is characterized as having caused much damage to the victim.
Do the social considerations support, rather than detract from, student learning?
Social Considerations Comments:
In telling the story of Omar and his family as they struggle in their home country and later in a refugee camp, the violence is the background to what the family must endure. It is a reality that many face, and in exploring this with students, it will allow them to understand the experiences of others. Likewise, different cultures have different family dynamics, and in examining these, students gain a better understanding of the diversities in the world. The mention of the rape, a sensitive subject for students, can begin a conversation about this kind of violence towards women.


Is the resource engaging?
Is the content current for the intended curriculum and grade?
Is the content accurate for the intended curriculum and grade?
Is the content timely and important for student broad understandings?
Is the content appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Does the resource provide opportunities for creative and critical thinking?
Can the content be differentiated?
Can reading level be adjusted?
Not at all or slightly
Is the level of detail appropriate?
Is the language use appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Though “Welcome to Nowhere” tackles an extremely hard issue in a family's plight during a modern war, it is told in a way that is engaging and relatable for students in Grade 4–7. Omar, his younger brother, his sisters, and his older brother Musa—who suffers from cerebral palsy—are going through a difficult ordeal, but they are also shown as children and siblings who do things that students will find in their own situations. Careful attention should be taken with the topics of rape and forced marriage that are mentioned in the book.


Does the resource make effective use of the medium?
Is the location of illustrations appropriate?
Is the resource easy to use?
Is the use of font, text size and presentation uniform?
Are extraneous elements/illustrations kept to a minimum?
The font is easily readable and the chapters and sections are clearly marked. The novel is punctuated with illustrations that support what is being written in the book and enhance the story.


Does the text show insight into the complexity of the human condition?
Does the text broaden students’ experiences and understanding?
To what degree is this text stylistically rich?
Plot description:
Omar is a twelve-year-old boy whose life is turned upside down by the civil war that erupts in his country of Syria. His family—his government-working father, stay-at-home mother, elder sister Eman, older brother Musa who suffers from cerebral palsy, and a younger brother and sister—must endure many frightening experiences before finally finding themselves in a refugee camp and eventually being extracted to Britain. From their home town of Bosra to Daraa, to the countryside, and eventually to a refugee camp in Jordan, the family endures. Along the way, Omar's brother Musa gets involved with revolutionaries, the family gets split up, and Baba—the patriarch of the family—is killed.
Related Comments:
From the outset, with the war going on in the background, the relationships between the siblings are depicted in a real and relatable way. The rich characterizations add depth to the story. Though Musa, who is disabled, is ridiculed and underappreciated, he is a respected member of his school community. Omar, who sees himself as the underdog in his family, proves himself resourceful and canny, having good business sense and supporting his family in seen and unseen ways. Omar feels constrained by his culture but wants desperately to support his sister, whose life choices are not her own. In the end, the family finds themselves able to leave the war-torn area and go to Britain.
Literary Highlights:
Complex conflict
Rich Characterization
Well-developed themes
Point of view


At intended grade level(s)
The award-winning author's note at the end explains how she was inspired to write the fictional story that is based on real experiences heard while running writing workshops in the Jordanian refugee camps. She also notes how students can help by fundraising for Hope School in the refugee camp.


The novel could be used as a read aloud in a Grade 4 or 5 class or as a novel study in a Grade 6 or 7 class. It could be used to explore a world event that depicts the harrowing effects of civil war on children from another part of the world. For younger students in Grade 4 and 5, the story will need to be put in a context that will be understandable for them as big ideas, since issues such as rape and forced marriage are introduced. For communities that have taken in refugees, most specifically from Syria, it would open up discussion of how these situations can affect families.