Adnan: The boy who helped his mummy remember

Adnan: The boy who helped his mummy remember

By Author / Illustrator

Mark Arrigo, Steven Chatterton, Diala Brisly


Mental Health & Wellbeing

Age range(s)



Frances Lincoln Children's Books




Paperback / softback




Adnan is the heartwarming story of a refugee boy's attempts to heal his mother's mental health issues with the power of his creativity as they rebuild their lives in their new home.

'Sometimes, when something sad happens, people can push it so far down because it hurts too much.
That's why Mummy doesn't remember.'  

This touching and sensitively told children's book is a story about a boy and his mother, about trauma and recovery, and how to deal with the challenges of mental health.  It tells the story of an imaginative ten-year-old Syrian refugee boy who flees his home country with his mother. Now settled in the UK, he must use all his creativity to break through his mother's PTSD or risk losing her forever.

The book is based on a short film of the same name, which has collected multiple awards and made Official Selection at its first Oscar qualifying festival.  Inspired by her own experiences as a refugee, Syrian artist Diala Brisly's illustrations are powerful and evocative, highlighting the contrast between Adnan's hope and the helplessness of the mother.

The charity Choose Love will receive 2% of the book's recommended retail price on every copy sold. Choose Love (formerly Help Refugees) goes where the need is greatest. They fill the gaps and act where others won't. Sometimes that means search and rescue boats. Sometimes it means providing food or safe, secure long-term housing for refugees. Since 2015, they've supported over 120 incredible projects and reached over one million people.



Based on a short film of the same name, Adnan: The Boy who Helped his Mummy Remember tells the story of a little boy who creates a 'save mummy plan' in an attempt to rescue her from depression. Although Adnan and his mother are now safe in a new home, the terrors and grief they experienced on their journey have left his mother trapped in deep depression and he is determined to help her remember how to be happy.

Heart-breaking and heart-warming, this is a poignant story sure to spark plenty of discussion and encourage empathy and understanding. Having had everything wrenched from him, Adnan is determined to pull his mother back from her sadness so that they can build a new life together. Through his attempts to help her remember, the reader learns of their terrible experiences, about the loss of family and home, the nightmare of their journey, but also the strength of the love for one another.

For those lucky enough to not have lived through such trauma, it is impossible to imagine the full horrors of these experiences nor the aftermath of emotions which must assail those who have. The book would make an excellent starting point for discussions at home or at school to develop children’s understanding of the real experiences faced by refugees.

The illustrations sensitively support the reader’s understanding of Adnan's story, with the shadowy edges of the earlier pictures capturing a sense of the mother's depression; the darkness which is hanging over her contrasting with the warm hues used as she returns to him. Love and hope shine through.

40 pages / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 5+


Adnan (based on a short film of the same name) is quite a worthy book that will no doubt be put forward for many prizes. It tells the story of a little boy called Adnan, who now lives in Western Europe with his mother. We are told they lived as a family of four in a war zone and, after an airstrike killed his father and sister, they crossed an ocean in a small boat, walked through forest and fields and then hid in the back of a truck to get to a refugee camp. Mum is clearly traumatised and has blocked the memories out, just retaining the sadness. Adnan hatches a very sophisticated plan to help her remember and so deal with those memories so she can build a new life with him, in their new home.

This is a book that will be lauded by adults, but may not hold much interest for children as the writing is quite stilted and the concept of families dying when bombs fall will be too much for some sensitive young people. However, the illustrations are charming and there will be a place for this book in school libraries.

Adnan may be appropriate to use with refugees who are new to our schools, although caution should be advised in case it triggers any trauma they may still be carrying. This book would probably fair better as an assembly text for Key Stage Two (ages 8+), or as a stimulus for work on the plight of refugees with older pupils in Key Stage Two.

Picture book / Reviewed by Wendy Kelly, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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