Muhammad Najem, War Reporter: How One Boy Put the Spotlight on Syria

Little, Brown. Sept. 2022. 320p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780759556898. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780759556904. .
Gr 6-9–Najem, Neus, and Robine put the graphic format to powerful use to depict the devastation of the Assad regime in Syria through the eyes of young Najem. In 2011, Najem’s safe life is irrevocably changed by the arrival of vicious soldiers looking to force men into the military. The family hides every time they sweep the city. Targeted bombings soon follow. Interwoven with these terrifying events is the family’s love, humor, and resilience. With each blow, this extended family goes back to work, back to school, and back to chronicling the war, with Najem deciding he should tell the story from the point of view of kids. Facing incredible danger, he begins to upload news to social media. While the bombings continue, Najem is contacted by CNN journalist Neus. He feels he might be making a difference. In 2018, the family moves to a safer city. Life is better at first, but the bombings come. Oldest brother Firas manages to move the family to Istanbul. Najem is so conflicted that he almost goes back to Syria, but Firas convinces him that he has to stay alive in order to make a difference. The book ends with Najem being interviewed on international television. Rising to the journalistic aims of the work, Robine’s art does not shy away from the toll of the fighting, on cities or on people. Appended author notes and photographs bring the story into the present.
VERDICT The power of graphic nonfiction is on full display here. Highly recommended.

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