Telling the inspirational story of a young girl from war torn Aleppo called Aya and her families tumultuous journey to safety, leading them to England. We meet Aya at a community centre with her mother and baby brother, both of whom she is responsible for taking care of, a promise she made to her Dad.
Within the community centre Aya finds a welcome distraction to all the form filling and interpreting she does (her mother cannot speak English) when she happens to come across a ballet class for girls of similar age to herself.
The book features flashbacks of Aya at significant moments in her past that give the reader a deeper, more meaningful appreciation for what is currently happening within the story. Through these we ascertain Aya has enjoyed learning ballet from a young age back in Aleppo and that ballet is hugely important to her, it was very touching to read that she packed her ballet slippers for the journey across multiple countries in her families search for safety.
Aya takes part in the ballet classes, enjoying the feeling that dancing creates within her, a much needed release and sense of freedom for a girl that has seen and experienced far more then most children her age, evident in the attitudes and behaviours of the other girls that attend the ballet class.
Aya is inspirational, approaching lifes challenges with a positive attitude and refusing to be defeated. Knowing she doesn’t necessarily fit in aesthetically in the ballet classes does not deter her and soon she makes friends with the other girls, especially Dotty.
The dance scenes that follow help the reader to envisage the emotions Aya experienced throughout her voyage from Aleppo to England, and combined with the flashbacks give us a better understanding as to the extent of what refugees can endure in their attempt to leave everything they knew and loved behind in the search for safety.
When it becomes clear to the ballet class teacher that Aya has a natural talent she is persuaded to apply for a place at the Royal Northern Ballet School, notoriously difficult to be accepted in to. Aya isn’t like other applicants though, she knows what the opportunity could provide for her and is driven so passionately to succeed, knowing in her heart that her entire journey from her ballet school in Aleppo to here in England has all led her to this opportunity to make it all count.
This really is an emotional journey to follow Aya and her family on and I had a few tears as I read the book. The viewpoint Aya gives the reader is a very personal one, detailing her thoughts and feelings throughout every thing she experienced after fleeing her home country with her family. The vunerability of all refugees making the perilous journey across land and sea is evident and raw within the pages of the book and as such this is definitely an informative book that all schools and libraries should stock, giving ks2 and beyond aged children a relatable perspective of a topic that will always be relevant whilst humankind continue to fight and go to war.
No ballet shoes in Syria is an absolutely captivating read, featuring genuine ballet details and advocating the rights of refugees throughout. Whilst at times quite emotional to read it is also extremely compelling – Aya deserves a happy ending to her story given everything she has endured. The reader will be cheering Aya on in her audition for a place at the Royal Northern Ballet School whilst waiting anxiously, palms sweating, to hear the outcome of the family’s claim for asylum.
Publication date – 02.05.19 RRP – £6.99 Publisher – Nosy Crow