A beautiful book on an important topic, with echoes of the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

bon sparrowSubhi’s world is Family Tent 4 in an Australian detention centre, crammed in with his mother and sister and dozens of others.

Terrible food, violence, fear and hopelessness are part of everyday life.

But Subhi has his great friend, Eli, and the stories his mother tells him. And he has the Night Sea, which delivers precious reminders of his father as he sleeps.

But change is coming to the only home Subhi has ever known.

On the hill outside the centre, in a house with a Lego letterbox, Jimmie lives with her father and older brother.

She is the keeper of the Bone Sparrow, a family relic given to her by her mother, before she died. It carries the souls of all her family, Jimmie’s mother told her, and will keep her safe.

But these aren’t safe times for either child in a world that is not designed to protect them.

For all the dark subject matter, this is a hopeful and touching story from the Melbourne-based writer.

Fraillon keeps a perfect balance between letting the story become lost in the horror of detention or allowing it to stray into unrealistic soppiness.

Subhi is a remarkable narrator and he holds our attention and our emotions throughout. It’s an important and difficult topic, and Fraillon more than does it justice.

This book was published in July 2016. My review was first published in the Herald Sun’s Weekend magazine.