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N.H. Senzai and Shannon Hitchcock expertly craft the intersection of the lives of two girls-one, a Muslim fleeing civil war, the other, an American from the South-as they are forced to examine their beliefs and the true meaning of friendship in the midst of the president's 2017 Muslim ban.

Twelve-year-old Noura Alwan's family is granted asylum in the United States, after spending two years in a Turkish refugee camp, having fled war-torn Aleppo. They land in Tampa, Florida, on January 30, 2017, just days after the president restricted entry into the US from nations with a Muslim majority population.

Twelve-year-old Jordyn Johnson is a record-breaking swimmer, but hasn't swum well since her mom had a miscarriage during one of her meets. Her family has volunteered to help the Alwan family through their church. She knows very few people of Arab descent or who practice Islam.

The girls' lives intersect at Bayshore Middle School where Jordyn serves as the Alwan children's school ambassador. Noura knows that her family is safe from the civil unrest in her home country, but is not prepared for the adversity she now faces on American soil. Jordyn is sympathetic to Noura's situation, but there are other members of their Florida community who see the refugees' presence to be a threat to their way of life.While the president's Muslim ban tests the resolve and faith of many, it is friendship that stands strong against fear and hatred.

Award winners N.H. Senzai and Shannon Hitchcock have combined their talents to craft a heartrending Own Voices story told in dual perspectives.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Flying Over Water pushes us to examine, with tender hearts, the collision of lives in refuge and those struggling to understand how to be humane and compassionate during inhumane times. It is an essential read for building empathy and agency." - Aida Salazar, International Latino Book award-winning author of The Moon Within

Praise for N.H. Senzai:
Asian/Pacific American Award (APALA) for Young Adult Literature (SHOOTING KABUL)

"This hard-hitting, emotionally nuanced first novel views the experiences of a family of Afghan refugees....Though cultural, religious, and political pressures persist, the satisfying surprise ending offers...hope and redemption."--Publishers Weekly (SHOOTING KABUL)

*"Filled with kindness and hope, but also with the harsh realities of the horrors of war, this heartbreaking book is a necessary reminder of what many people live through every day."--Booklist, starred review (ESCAPE FROM ALEPPO)

Praise for Shannon Hitchcock:
*"A heartening and important offering for younger readers." --Booklist, starred review (RUBY LEE & ME)

*"Hitchcock unflinchingly characterizes the emotional struggles of being young and lesbian....A compelling and honest addition to the few existing stories about gay middle schoolers." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review (ONE TRUE WAY)

School Library Journal


Gr 4–6—This contemporary fiction novel follows a family immigrating from Syria to the United States and the difficulties they face in their new home. Noura and her family are flying to the U. S. from a Turkish refugee camp the same day that President Trump's Muslim Ban goes into effect. In Tampa, FL, they are welcomed by Jordyn and her family, who are white. Both Noura and Jordyn have suffered trauma, and together they are able to help each other begin to heal. The novel also follows Noura and her brother Ammar's struggle to create a prayer room in their school, and the resistance they face from people in the community. Co-authors Hitchcock and Senzai relay the story in alternating chapters told from Jordyn and Noura's perspective. Several scenes truly leap from the page, such as when Noura and her family visit a mosque and find their place among Tampa's Muslim diaspora, and when Noura, Jordyn, and Ammar go on a boat trip to a nature preserve. The portrayals of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder are incredibly poignant, and the combined narratives weave a portrait of two young people discovering their own resilience while broadening their understanding of the world around them. Unfortunately, there are also several discordant and culturally insensitive inclusions. A singular reference to the Black Lives Matter movement feels out of place given that no context or expansion follows. Later an adult references a myth saying, "Some people say it's a Cherokee legend, but nobody really knows for sure." A cursory search online reveals that the myth originated with American Christian Evangelist Billy Graham, not any Native American tribe. A conversation about immigration and discrimination in America that omits the perspective of Indigenous and Black people is necessarily flawed and incomplete. VERDICT Though powerful at times, this novel is hampered by missteps and an attempt to tackle too many topics at once without due nuance, and thus doesn't reach its full potential.—Laken Hottle, Providence Community Lib.

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2020-08-04
The Alwan family arrives in Tampa, Florida, in 2017 after the war in Syria destroys their lives in Aleppo and forces them into a crowded refugee camp in Turkey.

But their arrival coincides with Trump’s Muslim ban and a sharp rise in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate crimes across the county, including in Tampa, where a mosque is set on fire soon after the family settles in. Frustrated and afraid yet determined to make the best of it, Noura begins seventh grade in her new American school. But she and her twin brother soon realize not all the students are like Jordyn, Noura’s kind, supportive school ambassador who becomes a good friend. Some are like Nick, who calls immigrants terrorists and draws a cartoon of Noura’s hijab being ripped off. But Noura insists on being strong and pushing forward by overcoming her worst fears and inspiring those around her to stand up for their values; she believes that hate can only be overcome with unity, conviction, and compassion. The novel seamlessly transitions between the perspectives of Noura and Jordyn, who is a White, upper-middle-class champion swimmer learning to cope with anxiety after her mother’s recent miscarriage. The girls quickly realize they share a lot in common and can help one another overcome their fears: Noura’s of swimming and Jordyn’s of panic attacks.

Movingly highlights a generation of youth at the center of progressive change. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781338617665
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 10/20/2020
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 195,347
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

Customer Reviews