Published by Kelpies on 19th April 2018
Genres: Children's, Issues, Realistic Fiction
Source: Kelpies sent it
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Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she's lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn't the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn't a place, it's the people you love. Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson's stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked 'where do I belong?'
Reviewed by Alex
When Mum asked if I wanted to review this book, I said yes because it sounded really interesting. I’m glad I said yes because I was right, it was interesting and so good.
Reema was a refugee who had to start living in a different country because of things happening in her own country. Although I haven’t felt what she was feeling, I felt sorry for her because she had to experience terrible things as a child.
Caylin has had to steal to look after herself since her granddad died and I felt really sad for her because it must be hard losing someone you love.
Will these two be able to become friends?
My favourite characters were Caylin and Reema because they both looked after the fox although they could have got into trouble.
My favourite part was when Reema and Caylin managed to get the foxes into the wild.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the story to switch character perspective every chapter and to people who like reading real-life stories, not just adventure stories.
Guest Post from Victoria Williamson
A Simple Act of Kindness
Being offered a seat on the train at the end long day. A card from an old friend you haven’t heard from in years. Someone stopping to help you pick up the groceries you’ve spilled across the car park in your hurry to get home.
Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness are the most meaningful, and can stay with us long after the grand gestures of official ‘giving days’ on birthdays and Christmases have faded from memory.
I’ll never forget the first time I travelled though London on my own as a teenager. I hadn’t been down to England before, and my only experience of trains was a distant memory of childhood journeys to the coast to get the ferry to Ireland with my family. In the days before smart phones and travel information at my fingertips, the thought of travelling through the sprawling, unknown London underground to another station to make a connection to Kent scared me silly. The older student sitting opposite me must have seen my pale face, as she struck up a conversation with me as the train sped south, asking me where I was going. When she heard how nervous I was, not only did she offer to give me directions, but she actually travelled with me through the London underground, helping me carry my heavy case up and down numerous staircases and across many platforms and taking me all the way to the second train station to make my connection. She even saw me onto my carriage, waving me off as the train pulled out of the station, despite the fact that her own journey had ended at our original stop and she’d now have to spend another hour travelling back to where she’d started.
That one act of kindness by a stranger twenty years ago when I needed help the most has stayed fresh and vivid in my memory, and makes me think: how often in our busy lives do we stop to look around us to see how other people are feeling? How often do we take the time needed for a small act that would make a real difference to someone else?
Often we’re too wrapped in our own thoughts and feelings to think about those of others, and the characters in my novel, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, are no exception. Caylin’s still grieving for her grandad who passed away, and absorbed with the task of looking after her depressed mother and keeping Social Services at bay. Reema’s consumed by the loss of her brother, the life she left behind in Syria, and the newness of the strange new country she finds herself in. Neither girl has time for the problems of the other. It’s only when they work together to care for the injured urban fox and her cubs in the back garden of their apartment building that they discover they have more in common than they could possibly have imagined. That’s when they start doing small things for each other that make all the difference to their friendship.
Caylin sticks up for Reema when she’s being bullied about her headscarf.
Reema encourages Caylin to join the sports club when Caylin’s lack of confidence prevents her from doing the one thing she loves: running.
Caylin buys Reema an ice cream to remind her of the happier times she spent with her lost brother.
Reema invites Caylin to join in her family’s Eid al-Fitr celebration and shares her favourite food with her.
Each little act is small on its own, but they help to build trust, and eventually form a firm foundation for the close friendship that Reema and Caylin come to share at the end of the book. It’s these little acts of kindness that we can all do to help brighten someone else’s day, particularly if that person, like Reema, is a long way from home and uncertain of the welcome they’ll receive in a new country. Often when we see refugee issues on the news we think there’s nothing we can do – the problems are too big and require lots of money to solve. When I was researching my novel however, I came across some of the organisations who work with refugees and got lots of great ideas for some of the ways you can help refugees that don’t require money.
Like to write?
Organisations like Refuweegee (https://refuweegee.co.uk) provide newly arrived refugees with welcome packs, and included in these are donated letters from people of all ages welcoming them into the country and wishing them well.
Like to get out and about and meet new people?
The Refugee Survival Trust (http://www.rst.org.uk/integration/befriending) and many other organisations run befriending projects which pair up newcomers to an area with people who’ve lived there much longer. The newcomers are introduced to the sights of the city – the free museums, galleries and parks – and the friendships that are formed during these outings often last long after the six month projects come to an end.
Like to stay in for a cup of tea and chat?
The Cup of Tea with a Refugee campaign started in 2016, and now runs across Scotland, where local organisations like school, student and church groups can host an event to bring refugees together with people from the community to share a cup of tea and a chat. For details of how you can organise one, no matter where you are in the UK, see http://www.cupofteawitharefugee.com
These are just some of the many ways you can get involved in a small act of kindness for a refugee who is far from home. Even for those who, like Caylin, are living at home but struggling, something as small as a few words of encouragement when they’re feeling down can make all the difference. Next time you’re in a hurry and don’t feel like you have time for anyone else, take a moment to slow down and look around you. That person sitting opposite you on the train looking lost, or that neighbour moving in next door who’d love a cup of tea, might just turn out to be your new best friend.