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Raffi's New Friend

by Sylvain Meunier
illustrated by Elisabeth Eudes-Pascal

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friendship, prejudice & racism, birds, special needs
list price: $5.95
also available: eBook Hardcover
published: 2010
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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
6 to 9
1 to 4
Reading age:
6 to 9
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Although the new girl at Raffi's school is small and fragile looking, he notices that she is quick on her feet. She ducks out of the way of classmates that try to grab her head scarf. It might look like a game, but Raffi sees the tears in her eyes. Raffi knows all about being different. He suffers from sickle cell anemia, which makes it hard for him to get around and a target for bullies.

The new girl, Fatima, shares Raffi's interest in birds, and they feed the mourning doves together. Sadness sets in when the kids discover that the dove nest had been destroyed by the previous day's storm, but the return of Fatima's father, who had been missing since she and her mother had immigrated, brings inspiration to everyone.

The next week, Fatima's father talks to their class about how his native country is being destroyed by war. By using the example of the dove nest in the storm, he offers the class a lesson about the disruption wars cause which even the bullying kids take to heart.


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Chapter 1
The girl was small and slim, but also quick and agile. She slipped free of the hands trying to pull off her headscarf. From far away, it might have looked like a game. Up close, you could see the tears in her eyes.
Raffi McCaffrey gripped his metal crutches. He wished he could turn them into weapons. He would aim them at the bullies and paralyzing rays would knock them to the ground.
But Raffi was weak, because he had sickle-cell anemia. His friend Carlito was in perfect health. The three bullies were tough guys from eighth grade Frank and his gang.
They were blocking the exit from the school yard. They wouldn't let the girl with the scarf leave until they had had their mean fun.
Raffi was about to yell at them to stop, when he heard the squeaky sound of an old van. His dad had come to pick him up.
The van pulled to a stop in front of Raffi and Carlito. In the back was a bulky shape wrapped up in blankets.
"Hi, guys! Hop in. I've got a delivery in the neighbourhood before we head home."
As he got out of the van, he noticed Raffi was upset.
"What's wrong?"
Raffi looked over at Frank and the other two boys, who were still bothering the girl in the scarf.
His father understood right away. Raffi had already told him about these bullies. He stood for a moment in thought, then reached into the van and pressed the horn.
The horn blared for a good five seconds. The bullies were startled and looked over at the van.
Raffi's dad took a few steps toward them.
"Isn't it time for you to go home, gentlemen?"
"That's none of your business," answered Frank.
Mr. McCaffrey stayed calm.
"I think it is," he replied.
"We were just playing a game with her," muttered another one of the big boys. He seemed less sure of himself.
"Well, the game is over now," Mr. McCaffrey said firmly.
At that moment the three thugs realized that, while they were talking, the girl had slipped away.
Frank muttered a swear word through clenched teeth. Then he pulled up his hood, and his buddies immediately pulled up theirs. The three shuffled off, their hands in their pockets.
"Have they ever picked on you, Raffi?" asked Mr. McCaffrey.
"No, they just make fun of him," Carlito answered for Raffi. "They say they don't waste their time on cripples."
Raffi's dad sighed.
"Do you two know that girl?" he asked.
"No, she's new in school."
"We only noticed her when she began to wear that headscarf," added Carlito.
"Does she have any friends?"
"I don't think so," said Raffi. "But why did those guys want to pull off her scarf?"
"People like that don't need any reason. There were bullies like that in my school too, when I was young. I guess there always will be bullies. But that's no reason to let them keep on hurting people. I'll have a word with the principal."
"We should run after them and pull off their hoods!" declared Carlito.
"They certainly deserve it," laughed Mr. McCaffrey. "But let's not stoop to their level."

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Contributor notes

SYLVAIN MEUNIER was born in Lachine, Quebec, and has written several books for adults and children. Two of his novels, Le seul ami and L'Homme a la bicyclette, have been finalists for the Governor General's award.

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Editorial Reviews

"...explores some serious and interesting themes."
Thematic links - Prejudice; Tolerance; Multiculturalism; Friendship; War

— Resource Links, Volume 16, No. 4

Although Meunier's novel -- a translated work -- sometimes falls into awkward phrasing, it is successful in its discussion of prejudice and violence, using a scenario accessible to young Canadian readers. Eudes- Pascal's ink sketches convey the characters' emotions with flair.

— Montreal Review of Books

"This overly ambitious title could definitely spark discussion about bullying, violence, prejudice and war, but that presumes that somone can convince children to read it first."

— Kirkus Books (U.S.)
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About the Authors

Sylvain Meunier

Sylvain Meunier was born in Lachine, Quebec, and has written several books for adults and children. Two of his novels, Le seul ami and L'Homme a la bicyclette, have been finalists for the Governor General's award.

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Elisabeth Eudes-Pascal

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