Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman is a great book to explore in your classroom. But what other books are connected to this important story? What books can you make available for your students to read? What books can you explore together?
Today I’m proud to present 10 books related to Boy Overboard, perfect for the classroom. From picture book memoirs, to wordless books to well known novels, this is the list every teacher needs when they’re teaching Boy Overboard!
Girl Underground (and other Morris Gleitzman novels)
Girl Underground is a must have for students who are reading Boy Overboard. The companion to Boy Overboard it follows the story of Bridget and Menzies who team up to help Jamal and Bibi who are now living in a refugee camp in the Australian desert.
In the author notes for this book, Morris Gleitzman says he was struck by the range of responses from the public to those in need of help - like refugees. He sought to explore that in Girl Underground and it makes for a great discussion which you can explore with your class.
It’s well worth making other Morris Gleitzman novels available for your students to read as well. He’s got a huge collection of novels covering a wide range of topics - there’s something for everyone!
Mahtab’s Story and Parvana
Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson and Parvana by Deborah Ellis (published as The Breadwinner outside Australia) both look at the harsh life under the Taliban in Afghanistan - the same regime that Jamal and Bibi were living under at the beginning of Boy Overboard.
Mahtab’s Story is also similar to Boy Overboard because it traces the difficult journey out of Afghanistan to Australia. We’re taken through the long - and sometimes tedious - journey Mahtab and her family take as they move from one place to another - sometimes in danger, sometimes just waiting for something to happen. The writing is beautiful and this would make for a great text if you are looking at description.
Parvana is a little different because it focuses more on the life under the Taliban. Parvana is a young girl who is forced to pretend she is a girl when her father is taken away. Girls and women in Afghanistan aren’t allowed to be in public without a male family member, so Parvana’s disguise is an essential part of their survival as she starts working to support the family.
Refugee by Alan Gratz reminds us that stories of refugees aren’t new and that they will probably continue into the future. By presenting three different stories from different time periods, students are invited to look at the similar and different aspects of people fleeing from dangerous situations and to look at where else in the world this might apply.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a large, wordless book which follows the journey of a man fleeing danger and hoping to be reunited with his family and the kindness of the people he meets in the strange land. It connects with the journey made by Jamal and their family and the strange things Jamal comes across from one place to another.
This is a stunning book, well worth taking an in-depth look at if you have the time. It can be accompanied with a wide range of texts and can definitely become the focus of an extended book study. Students can explore how illustrations can tell such vivid stories and where else they can find powerful illustrations, or they can explore other wordless books or graphic novels.
I’m Australian Too
Much of I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox focuses on different groups of people who live in Australia and how their families came here. However, at the end of the book we are introduced to a refugee in a camp, still waiting to come to Australia.
This powerful end to the book, contrasted with all the other children leading fulfilling lives within Australia can raise a number of discussion points with students. They can compare this story with Jamal and Bibi’s story, reflect on why people leave one country for another and whether it reflects Australian history.
My Name is Not Refugee
My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner is aimed at younger children, but is a beautifully written way to explain life as a refugee to people of all ages. Throughout the book, a range of questions are asked which put the reader into the shoes of refugees.
This would be a great book to share before starting Boy Overboard, as it introduces students to the idea of refugees. Students could also read it to compare the story of the child depicted with Jamal and Bibi and their journey
Wisp by Zana Fraillon is more abstract than some of the other books, asking students to draw connections between the text, the illustrations and things which are happening around the world. This beautiful book draws the reader in as they go on journeys of memory and imagination with the characters.
Students can use this book to explore the notion of hope and to compare it with the hopes Jamal and his family carried with them as they journeyed away from the danger in their homeland. They can explore different ways hopes can be written about and drawn and how we may hope for a better future for everyone.
Room on Our Rock
Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple is an incredibly clever picture book which shares two messages depending on whether you read it from back to front or front to back. This reflects Morris Gleitzman’s statement about the range of opinions which exist when it comes to refugees and other people who need help.
This would be a great book to look at in terms of structure. Students can attempt to write their own forwards or backwards stories with different messages and examine how the authors have successfully managed it.
The Little Refugee
The Little Refugee by Ahn Do and Suzanne Do shares another story of a boat trip to Australia, but this time as a result of a different conflict - the Vietnam War. Students may be surprised to see that this is the picture book memoir of a popular children’s author, well known for the Weir Do and Hot Dog books, allowing them to see what life may look like for refugees as they grow from children to adults.
There are many parallels with Boy Overboard in Ahn Do’s story, which students can explore and list. They might also explore what Jamal and Bibi’s story might look like if it was turned into a picture book and how it might be illustrated.