This 40 page book caught my attention because I have a son named Mustafa, and the illustrations looked endearing and fun. The author/illustrator was inspired to write the story when she visited Croatia and saw the resilience of the children. She also remarks on her website, that children in new places can all relate to the nuanced uneasiness and gradual fitting in process that takes place universally (http://marielouisegay.com/blog/).
The text is prose-like as young Mustafa ventures from his apartment each day to the park nearby. He notices things he has never seen before and compares them to the destruction he recalls of his homeland. He also finds things that remind him of home and things that look familiar. From little ladybugs and a heart-shaped leaf, to the changing leaf colors and kids dressed up in costumes, there is so much to take in and understand.
As the days go on, he begins to wonder if he is invisible. Finally, a little girl with a cat makes a small beckoning gesture to him that doesn’t need language to be understood, and just like that, the world gets a little more welcoming. This gentle story shows what being new can feel like, and reminds us that sometimes all it takes is a simple act of kindness to change so much.
The book mentions that Mustafa came on a long journey, but does not specify where he has come from. He draws his house being bombed in the dirt with a stick and mentions loud noises and fire. The mother wears hijab, and obviously his name would identify them as Muslims, but other than that there is no reference or mention of religion.
Overall, the book would be great for ages 4-8. The passages are a little long, but with the illustrations and relatable concepts, I think children will reflect on what the author is trying to convey, and be able to process what Mustafa has been through, and how hard even the littlest things can be in a new place.