Boy Overboard

By Hannah Ting

Question 1

Why must Jamal, Bibi and their parents flee Afghanistan?

Jamal, Bibi and their parents must flee Afghanistan, as their mum has been running an illegal school at their home and the Government has found out. His mother was almost murdered for it, especially as she was teaching girls as well. However, their house wasn’t so lucky and it got blown up; fortunately they managed to escape their house just in time. The area surrounding their home is also dangerous because the land is filled with landmines.

How do they manage to escape?

After saving Jamal's mother from being executed, his dad disguises his taxi and drives them away from the city. They then sell the taxi and ride in a truck to a UN Refugee Camp. Jamal's family plan on taking a smuggler boat to Australia, so they sell their family heirloom, a candlestick. They use that money, along with the money from the taxi they sold, to buy tickets. Jamal meets a boy named Omar, when he attempts to steal Jamal's soccer ball. While trying to get it back, Jamal and Bibi's parents have already caught the boat and are looking frantically for their children; but it's too late. Jamal and Bibi are left on the land and even though they cry for help, no one is able to help them. Therefore, they board the next boat, along with Omar. While waiting for soup, they meet a girl named Rashida. She feeds them sardines and gives them water. Jamal notices that she has flour, hence he makes bread on the diesel engine. When there are only a few days left, the smugglers come around to each person on board, armed, and demand for their valuables. Rashida hands them her father's watch on behalf of the four of them, as they are empty handed. Then, pirates arrive and abuse women. Luckily, Bibi and Rashida escape unharmed though because they pretend to be boys. The smugglers then leave with the pirates, along with peoples' valuables. After a few days, the Australian Navy ship finally arrives. A man named Andrew, who can speak their language, feeds them and gives them water. Jamal and Bibi also play soccer against the Australians. Finally, after so much hardship, Jamal and Bibi are happy and have freedom. However, they find out that their parents' boat has sunken and they aren't actually in Australia, but on an island. Then, a few days later, they find out their parents are actually alive and the family is finally reunited.

Question 2

The story is told in the first person from a child’s perspective. It uses humour and naivety, even in grave situations. Find three examples of this. Explain why you think Morris Gleitzman uses humour to tell the story.

“I know why Mum and Dad are going to the soccer stadium. They’ve got the same plan as me. They’re going to talk to the government official about me and Bibi.” (pg 58)

"In Australia, when it's your birthday, the Australian government comes round to your house with cake and fizzy drinks." (pg 137-138)

"It was a hard kick, but it wasn't that hard." (pg 46)

I think Morris Gleitzman uses humour to tell the story because the topic is quite deep and hard for children to comprehend. Humour makes the story more appealing to younger readers and telling the story from a child’s point of view enables younger readers to engage and imagine themselves in Jamal’s shoes. When I was reading this book, I thought about what I would do in Jamal's situation. It really deepened my understanding of this book and it’s topic. I think this is what Morris Gleitzman was aiming to achieve.

Question 3

“But I don’t understand. Here’s a man who’s as kind as can be, from a country where people’s hearts are bigger than warm loaves, and yet some people there don’t want us.” (pg. 176). The story ends with the family reuniting but we don’t actually know what happens to them. What do you think should happen to Jamal’s family and other families like them?

I think that families like Jamal’s should be allowed into Australia, as their country is unsafe. Their view of Australia is that it is a paradise. They also think Australians are very welcoming and hospitable. However, when they come here, they don’t even get treated like humans. Firstly, they are deceived into thinking they have arrived in Australia but are actually on an island. Then they are given false hope of ever having a better future. Imagine if that was your family. Wouldn’t you want your children to escape the cycle of poverty and violence? Wouldn’t you risk your life to leave your home country and flee to the unknown, on an unsafe boat, with little chance of making it? Imagine surviving the horrific journey, to discover the people you thought were so caring not even want you in their country? The way we are treating refugees is inhumane and must change.

Jamal's Journey in Boy Overboard