Safiyyah’s War

Hiba Noor Khan

Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing 2024

Shortlisted for the Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize 2024

At the heart of this Carnegie shortlisted book is a little-known true story: the role of the Grand Central Mosque in Paris and the efforts of the Muslims to lead the Jews to safety during World War II.

Safiyyah’s life changes forever as bombs start to fall on Paris and the Nazis enter the city. Her friends’ family flee as her world shrinks to that of living in the Mosque. When her father is arrested it falls to Safiyyah to continue to run secret messages across the city, helping Jews escape through the infamous catacombs.

The horror and the dangers that were involved in this period are mitigated for readers by the inclusion of reassuring characters and several kittens! Safiyyah is portrayed as independent, curious and compassionate and I liked her interest in maps, which of course became important to the story.

This is an important piece of history that needed revealing. It deserves to be read about and would sit well with other more traditional stories of WW2.

Published by Andersen Press Ltd, 2024 (336 pages)

Reviewed by Rachel Bolton