Writer in Residence: Onjali Q. Raúf

Every six months, BookTrust appoints a new Writer or Illustrator in Residence to write blogs, run competitions and give us their own unique perspective on the world of children's books.

Onjali Q. Raúf photographed by Rehan Jamil

Our current Writer Residence is Onjali Raúf. In the role, Onjali will be using her time as a writer-in-residence to highlight literary inspirations related to a different issue each month - from human rights to the environment to poverty and racism. She will also be opening the residency door to learn from readers about the books which have inspired them to take action too, and share their experiences of real-life amazing people who are doing their bit locally, to tackle the biggest global issues of our day.

Onjali Q. Raúf is the founder and CEO of two NGOs: Making Herstory, an organisation mobilising people from all walks of life to tackle the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond; and O’s Refugee Aid Team, which delivers emergency aid and funds to frontline refugee aid teams in northern France and Greece.

Her first children’s novel, The Boy at the Back of the Class, is a child's perspective on the refugee crisis and went on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award in 2019. Her second children’s novel, The Star Outside My Window, tackled the impact of domestic abuse on children’s lives and was awarded the 2020 Diversity Book Award for children’s fiction. In 2020, a mini-sequel to The Boy at the Back of the Class, entitled The Day We Met The Queen was released to mark World Book Day, and was shortly followed by the publication of her latest novel, The Night Bus Hero - a story which deals with the impact of homelessness and bullying.

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Speaking about being appointed as BookTrust's Writer in Residence, Onjali says:

'I have always wondered what being a ‘writer-in-residence’ actually means, and can hardly believe that I now get to find out thanks to the generous hearts at Booktrust - an organisation filled with so many cool bookworms, it makes being a bona fide book-anything cool too!

Receiving the gift of this residential key from the one and only Smriti Hall,  I am deeply excited to be spending the next six months shining a light on those authors whose magical story-telling powers have made (and still make) me want to get up and act on an issue that matters to me deeply: issues that I hope will interest and matter deeply to you too.

And whilst I can’t wait to share the stories, both real and imaginary, that inspire me, I am also keen to expand my own horizons. Because what I really want to do, is learn from you too and hear about all the s/heroes in your neck of the woods working hard to make the world a kinder, better place to be in for all.

So come join me as of this year’s International Women’s Day, and let’s get thinking, asking, and championing amazing books written by amazing people, together!'

Hello from Onjali

Features from our Writer in Residence


Books by Onjali Raúf

The Boy at the Back of the Class

Author: Onjali Q Raúf

This is the story about how four classmates have a massive impact on the life of Ahmet, a boy that comes to their school as a refugee from Syria. An inspiring and sweet tale that should help children be the best they can be and realise the power of kindness.

Read more about The Boy at the Back of the Class

The Star Outside My Window

Author: Onjali Q Raúf

A heartbreaking but sensitively-told story of domestic abuse, loss and friendship from the author behind The Boy at the Back of the Class.

Read more about The Star Outside My Window

The Night Bus Hero

Author: Onjali Q. Raúf

Hector is a bully who reports an innocent homeless man to the police because he thinks he's probably responsible for a spate of thefts - but when Hector discovers he's got it wrong, he must race to restore justice.

Read more about The Night Bus Hero

Previous Writers in Residence

Previous writers to take up the post include Matt Haig, Laura Dockrill, Cressida Cowell, Chris Riddell and Patrick Ness – see what fun things they all got up to during their time in residence.

Find out more

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