The Star Outside My Window
Ten-year-old Aniyah and her little brother Noah have been put into the care of firm-but-kind Mrs Iwuchukwu. They're not exactly sure what has happened to Mum, only that she has disappeared and the police have brought them to Oxford, far away their home in London.
Aniyah also doesn't understand where Dad is, though she doesn’t miss having to be quiet to avoid setting off his “triggers”. It's hard being in a new home, even though Mrs Iwuchukwu doesn't mind them being noisy, or even changing Noah's sheets when he wets the bed every night.
Yet when astronomy-mad Aniyah learns about a new star that has been behaving strangely in the sky, she assumes it must be Mum, who has told her that the brightest hearts become stars and stay with us forever. All Aniyah needs to do is convince the people about to name the star that it's her mother. But how will Aniyah and Noah get back to London in time to name the star, and find Mum again?
This sensitively told story of domestic abuse is as heartbreaking as you might expect, but Raúf deftly steers Aniyah's innocent-child point of view through a multi-layered story of loss and friendship.
Despite its topic, it's completely suitable for middle grade readers and will enable an important discussion to be had. An important and beautiful book.