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Safiyyah’s War

Hiba Noor Khan

Andersen Press (9+) 9781839133138 (Paperback)

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When war arrives in Paris and the Nazi occupation begins, the lives of Saffiyah and her family and friends change forever.  Safiyyah lives at the Grand Central Mosque in Paris with her family.  This book shines a light on the role the Great Mosque in Paris played in helping the Jewish community, offering an insight into a less known part of World War Two.  Drawn into danger, will Safiyyah be able to summon the courage to enter the catacombs beneath Paris and lead the Jews to safety in this daring, exciting and genuinely tense read?

Safiyyah is a heroine readers won’t forget. She is independent, bookish, rebellious, adventurous and bold. There’s a palpable build up to events with strong characterisation throughout and a central character who develops in maturity and understanding. Community and coming together in adverse times are related powerfully and memorably. The intergenerational relationship between Safiyyah and her grandmother is well realised in this engaging and emotional story based on real events. Themes of family, friendship and bravery are set against an accurate and realistic historical context. It’s an outstanding account of an important but often overlooked aspect of World War Two history. It shows empathy in action and tackles stereotypes about Muslims, Jews and women. A gripping novel that allows us to re-evaluate the stories of the past through a different lens. The ending gives real pause for thought. 

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Hiba Noor Khan

Hiba is the author of One Home, Inspiring Inventors Who Are Changing Our Future, The Extraordinary Life of Malala Yousafzai and the picture book The Little War Cat. Hiba has many strings to her bow: she’s a physics teacher and a recent Global Diplomacy graduate. Hiba is also an activist, she’s worked for The Children’s Society as a Refugee Advocate and for the United Nations IOM on international development projects. She’s also delivered humanitarian aid in Syrian refugee camps and worked on reforestation initiatives in Tanzania.

Shadowers' reviews and artwork

This book gave me a new idea on what happened throughout the war for different people. I felt like I was living in the time with sapphire. It has truly amazed me due to the extensive detail.

James

SHS On The Same Page

A well written piece of hidden history based on real events highlighting the role Muslims and the Great Mosque in Paris played in helping the Jewish community escape persecution during the Second World War during the occupation of France by the Nazis. I also enjoyed reading about the relationship between the protagonist Saffiyah - a brave, young Muslim girl who helps lead the Jews to safety, and her wise grandmother. Overall, great story telling and an important story to be shared about the power of community, faith and hope.

Mrs Mann

Brooke Weston Book Busters

I found this book amazing apart from the first part of the book which was a bit boring the rest was action packed, suspenseful and made me want to read more every time I had to stop. This book based in World War 2 made a great book . 9/10 .

Saul

Ermysted’s

This book was about Muslims helping Jewish people living in Paris in the second world war. I thought it was good and it had quite a bit of action in it. I have read many books about world war two but this was the first to have Muslims helping jews

IsaacJ

Ermysted’s

I think this book was very interesting because it was about a group in Paris during WW2 ( the story is mainly centred around the mosque ) who attempt to rescue jews through the catacombs under Paris and then smuggle them on a boat. I would give this book 9/10.

Ben P

Ermysted’s

A very good book that sheds a light onto the lesser known events of the Second World War. This book shows to what great lengths people went to help those in need to escape the Nazi occupation of Paris and go to live better lives. Especially the lives of the Jewish community who were widely persecuted during that time. The bravery of people like Safiyyah and others like her should never be forgotten.

Sam S

Ermysted’s

This is certainly a unique book especially considering the perspective and era as I personally have seen little about the experiences of the Muslim community during WWII. It has a very powerful commentary set in the heart of Paris just as the Germans come to invade, and Khan's writing style is simultaneously incredibly poignant and earnest. However, I found the protagonist, Safiyyah, to be quite unrealistic, and the character dynamics to be rather off: how is she ten years old, a geographical genius and so academically powerful? Overall, not a terrible book, but could be more realistic.

Lara

PGHS Shadowers

I really enjoyed reading this book set in WWII, Paris. It was very interesting to see how the mosque helped the Jews in Paris. Safiyyah was a good character and I loved her relationship with Hana and her family, as well as Isabelle! It seemed a really horrible time for the family, but I liked the fact that in the epilogue she followed her dream. Her work for the Resistance was exciting and I thought the book ended well. Overall, a really good book.

Aidan M

Ermysted’s

Safiyyah's War is an exciting, beautifully written story, with rich descriptions and near-limitless depth to each and every character... The sorrowful turns in the story, then the moments of hope, and everything in between, are all well-expressed, whether by both narration and dialogue. All in all, it is truly an interesting, unique, extraordinary story.

Leyla

KEVICHG

This book is based in world war 2 and is from the view of a 10 year old who is very interested in travelling and was for some of the book quite upset about her Jewish friend having to leave because her family thought it was unsafe to stay in France. I thought that the book went of on a pretty rocky start because of it taking a while for all the action start which did make it quite boring however after the first hundred pages I think it started to get a lot more intense and interesting with her father at the mosque. But I did find that the protagonist was quite unrealistic because she managed to be amazing academically and also extremely lucky with her circumstances. However I loved how the small child comforted so many hearts when they were dealing with loss. I also loved how the author kept the book quite formal like the situation of the main characters. Overall I would give this 4 stars because the first half really threw me off the book but it did redeem itself in the second half which all the suspense.i hope that this review gives you a good idea of the book.

Leela

Macaulay Book Club

Safiyyah's war was an interesting read, starting off weakly but slowly building up until at the end where the author showed her true finesse. Though not my favourite book, I still greatly enjoyed reading this novel due to the insight on world war two from a Muslim perspective. The way the story is set out makes it seem like it would be written from a Jew's point of view but the author (being Muslim herself) has steered away from what would be the obvious option and gone for something a bit more unorthodox. My personal opinion on Safiyyah, is that she is too unrealistic a character as she is terrified of things at one point in the book which she confidently brushes past in another and for her to change her attitude towards something that fast ,even under the given circumstances, is pretty absurd. In addition to this Hana was given too little attention in this book and did not develop enough as a character because of it. Although Safiyyah and Hana did not impress me, Setti (the wise mentor who speaks in riddles) did, as she fit the role well and she made me feel more sympathetic towards Safiyyah. Her death was rather unexpected as I think the book could have easily continued on the same level with Setti still in it. I guess she just impressed me as a character which led to me wanting to keep her in the story. Whilst reading this book, I thought that the plot was going to be fictional and the only real thing about it would be the mosque but once I had finished it and read about the history behind the story I realised how wrong I was. This was probably my favourite part of the book as it was extremely interesting to read about the history of the mosque which was an area of world war two which I would probably never have learned about had I not read this book. Overall, this book was interesting but if I did not have to finish this book I would not have as the start was incredibly slow. Score: Characters:15/20 Plot:17/20 Inspiration:19/20 Total:41/60

Sevan

Ermysted’s

Safiyyah's War was a brilliant, page-turning book, with lots of twists and turns, anticipation and excitement. I could barely put the book down. It especially reminds me of Malala, a true story of a young girl fighting against war; like that, Safiyyah helps Jewish people in their time of need in the war. In particular, one of my favourite characters in Safiyyah's War is her Setti (grandma) because of how calm and reassuring she is ever in times of disaster. She enjoys the simple and little things in life. As well as this she pushes Safiyyah to be the best she can be and adds a lot to the story. Overall, I loved this book and I think it is an amazing representation of many peoples' hardships and battles during World war II. I give it a solid 9/10 and will definitely read it again.

Violet

The John Mason Shadowers

"Safiyyah's War" is a well-written feel-good, anytime one feels sad they have to just read a few pages of this book and they'll feel ultimately better. This book is a flower of emotions, mostly good. I am highly confident that this book will become a classic in the future.

Yuvan

CRGS Book Society

A brilliant story of bravery, resilience and having faith and hope in adverse situations which cause grief and hardship. It superbly brings together people of different cultures whereby they are able to acquire wisdom and knowledge from one another in order to overcome.

Angela

Greenford High CSG

Honestly, in the beginning this book was boring but the gradual increase of the plot made it really good. I loved how Safiyyah was strong on her opinion in the beginning and knew she didn't have to leave this place. I loved most of the characters and how Safiyyah decided to help out the Jews and do some dangerous risky tasks. However, I couldn't bring myself to finish this because personally books about war aren't really the type of thing I would read but despite this it was an amazing book! I really loved how to represented Muslims in the war especially because I was always so interested about what could've happened to them and what they would've done and this brought it to life! If I would rate this, I would give it a 7/10. It was definitely not the type of book I would read, but I would recommend it to people who are around the same age or younger than me.

Ghumaysa

Plashet School

This book is about Safiyyah, an 11 year old Muslim girl living in Paris at the local mosque. She loves to explore and look at maps in the library, but this all changes when the Nazis arrive. As the danger draws closer more and more people leave to get to safety, but Safiyyah is stuck in the city hoping she can keep her secrets while the Nazis sit right on her doorstep... In this book about the suffering endured in WWII, tiny specks of hope are added making it a wonderful and amazing to read. I felt like I connected with the main character Safiyyah’s thoughts and feelings throughout the book, as parts would send my heart racing while in others, I felt her pain or her joy. This book really showed me what it was like in WWII, the pain the Nazis inflicted on the Jews and other families with their new rules like curfew at 8pm or the amount of fabric you were allowed to use in clothing. It showed the oppression faced and the resistance efforts against the uninvited new authority. It was interesting to see the home and school life of someone around my age in a different culture and how they coped with the dark clouds hanging above their heads. Overall, this book was such an inspiring piece of writing that showed me there is always a light in the darkness and some things will get worse before they get better.

Holly

The Fitzharrys Shadows

Wow. There are so many things I can say about this book. Firstly I think that the protagonist is well written and her emotions are relatable. It makes her seem material and real. The story is a beautiful commentary on the struggles of families and friends in WW2. It's a truly astonishing and heartfelt book that constantly twist and turns leaving you bewildered and anxious on what will happen next. I would happily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a feel good read. 10/10

theo

VISTA Academy

I personally adore this book. The characters are so well written and I must admit it's refreshing to have a main character that's Muslim as most books I read never have a character like that let alone have them as the main character. Truly a welcome change. I find the book was written at a nice pace and the plot is gripping and kept me reading for hours. (who needs sleep when you can read?)

Melanie

Kingdown 24

The sentiment and overall plot was enjoyable and the representation of other sides of this certain period of history was important. However, I thought the way the younger characters acted wasn't realistic as they acted slightly older, more emotionally mature, than I think they should be. Taking in account the circumstances they were in and the time period, I still think the younger characters were unrealistic and hard to connect to.

Olivia

Kingdown 24

This book has a great story line, its interesting and unique! I've only read the first 10 pages but its already a beautiful book! 10/10!

Meredith

Kingdown 24

This is one of the best books that I have read .

Humera

Winchmore Carnegie Group 2024

I liked this book. It was really good but also sad because she go into trouble every time she would get home late from the library.

Haleemah

The Reading Queens

Safiyyah’s War is a gripping and powerful novel that centres around the life of Safiyyah, a young woman who finds herself torn between duty and desire in war-torn Syria. As the conflict escalates around her, Safiyyah must navigate the complexities of love, loss, and survival in a world fraught with danger and uncertainty. Hiba Noor Khan does a fantastic job of capturing the emotional depth and turmoil of her characters, drawing readers into Safiyyah’s world with vivid and evocative prose. The novel is both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking, shedding light on the harsh realities of war and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Safiyyah’s War is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the human cost of conflict and the strength of the human spirit in the most challenging of circumstances. Khan’s writing is both poignant and powerful, making this novel an unforgettable and moving read.

Aza

Reading Rats

I loved this book as it showed an insight on what WWII was like for Jews. Safiyyah's War clearly shows the hardships as the boy that bullied Amelie and Hana, Henri and Phillipe were rude to them just because they were Jewish. Safiyyah's determination to help the Jews to evacuate out of the city was a main point of the book as she showed no fear and believed in doing what was right and true. Safiyyah's family all worked hand in hand to help people that were probably at vulnerable and terrified points of their life and to see that help would have meant the whole world. I also loved Safiyyah's relationship with her grandmother, Setti as they were both lovers of the oranges that setting had grown from her homeland, Algeria. It was quite sad as Setti died near the end, but Safiyyah had nice dreams for Setti and prayed for her. Overall, I rate this book 5 stars as it was very interesting and emotional.

Amira

STCCG Shadowing

Throughout the book Safiyyah’s story is compelling, (sometimes a little sad) and always exciting. I loved every bit of it from the first few words to the last page. It described the how safiyyah experienced the war in such a way that you could definitely feel her feelings. I could barely put this amazing book down.

Helena

Herts and Essex

Well... This book confused me. Was there more than 1 author? I thought that the first half was incredible naive style of writing "... and then 'X' happened... and then 'Y' happened, and then 'Z' happened..." very young style of writing - certainly not a book for 11+. However, just over half way through they style of writing seemed to change. The writing was much more fluid, much more realistic, much more STORY! I enjoyed the story and the conversations in the tale. I appreciate, at the start, that the author was setting the scenes of this very difficult time in human history, but it was disappointing, clumsy writing. So much more potential, I thought.

Mrs Allsopp

The Reading Queens

Whilst I liked the original idea and concept about a Muslim girl helping Jews in World War 2 Paris, as it was aimed at younger readers I didn't particularly enjoy it. I love the empathy displayed in the book but it did not particularly grip me or make me want to keep reading.

Eve

St Kaths

I think that 'Safiyyah's War' is a really great book and it really makes me think about the wars that happened at the time. I also really liked the character Setti as she was very kind and wise. Furthermore, I always felt hungry reading the descriptions of the oranges.

Hannah

The St. Bede’s Literary Critics

I really enjoyed reading Safiyyahs War. I have always liked reading historical fiction that is based on real, inspirational stories, and found this a very good way to diversify my reading. Safiyyahs' story really touched my heart, and I found her bravery uplifting. The way she faced her fears to help hundreds of people despite the danger from the Nazi soldiers. I think the ending was really effective, and hope to see Safiyyah and the mosque again in a sequel 🤞 I rate this book 9/10

Emma

High Storrs Carnegie Shadowing Group

This was my favourite book. I really liked the ending and thought there was nothing wrong with it.

Hasan i

Ermysted’s

Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan is a gripping tale of resilience, courage, and the pursuit of justice set against the backdrop of conflict. Khan weaves a compelling narrative around Safiyyah, a young woman thrust into the chaos of war, who discovers her inner strength and determination amidst adversity. The author's vivid prose and skillful character development breathe life into the story, capturing the reader's attention from start to finish. With its powerful themes of survival and redemption, Safiyyah's War is a captivating read that leaves a lasting impression, showcasing Khan's talent as a storyteller.

kieran

Fiction Addiction

This book was so gripping and I couldn't put it down. I loved every bit and it is a story of bravery and kindness. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading.

Mia

Skipton Shadows

This book is great so far and describes things well which makes it fun to read.

Rhys

Sir Harry’s Shadowers

Saffiyah’s war is an extraordinary book that brings attention to the forgotten heroes of ww2: the resistance that saved between 500-1700 Jews by helping them escape Paris via the mosque. I think that it us a really good book that re-tells the story really well. I like it because it leaves a lot of questions unanswered: What happens to Hana and Monsieur Cassin? Did Timmothéé’s dad get better? I like this because it makes me wish for a sequel. My favourite character is Timothéé because I like how he helps the resistance out of kindness, he didn't have to, he could of left it alone and looked after his sick dad. I wish he had a bigger role in the story though.

Caiden o

VISTA Academy

Safiyyah’s War is a book set in Paris France when the Nazis were at large. It is about a Muslim girl called Safiyyah who lives in a Mosque with her Dad, Mum, little sister, and grandmother. As the war goes on she starts making discoveries… I really enjoyed reading this book because each chapter ended on a cliffhanger so I couldn’t but it down. Also, I like that the author included a historical note about what she found when she was researching about World War II in Paris France, so it includes some real facts. My favorite character would probably be Safiyyah because she was determined to help people, so she is a great example of kindness. Also, she really likes maps and books and is knowledgeable about the city she lives in, Paris. What I disliked about the book was that it was a bit confusing because the characters all had rather similar names and were a bit hard to pronounce. But that on the contrary is also a positive because it means you must be paying attention to understand, that is the only negative thing I can say. I would read this book if you like adventurous books with lots of cliff hangers and dangerous decisions but, older children over 9 because it may be a bit disturbing for younger kids. To add to that, I would recommend it for people who do not only like adventurous books but people who like fictional but with a bit of history. If I could rate it out of five it would have to be five because how it shows how hard it was for people in Nazi France but how there was still happiness just not as much, but also how there was a struggle for survival.

Sophia

The Fitzharrys Shadows

I really liked this book. It was an amazing book that showed courage and bravery that made it hard to stop reading it. I think that Safiyyah is an amazing character and I admire her a lot especially because she stood up for people who needed help.

Roisin

The St. Bede’s Literary Critics

Safiyyah’s War is a beautifully written story based on real life events. It is set during World War II and follows the life Safiyyah, who lives with her family in a mosque in the centre of Paris. When the Germans invade France, Safiyyah is suddenly thrown into a world of terror. She discovers her father has been helping the Jews flee with his secret Resistance work and when he is arrested by the Nazis, it is Safiyyah’s job to run errands for her father. But with several Jews coming to the mosque to seek safety, will Safiyyah be able to help the Jews escape when it is all down to her? I thought Safiyyah’s War was an incredible book: I really enjoyed it! I thought it was very interesting that this novel explores a side of history that isn’t often talked about, or, in my opinion, you don’t typically find in many other books. This story maintained my interest throughout – there was constantly things happening and I never felt like it became boring or repetitive. I think the part that surprised me the most was the pivotal moment where Safiyyah finds out about her father’s work. During the book, you feel sympathy for Safiyyah as you learn about the constant fear and worry she had to deal with every day. My favourite character is Safiyyah because she is resilient and bold – I feel like she does not give up. Also, I really loved the fact the author added a small section at the end that showed a glimpse into Safiyyah’s future, 10 years later. The only thing that I would have wished is that the second half of the book explored Timothee more. Personally, I felt like he was a character that kind of disappeared and he wasn’t really talked about much towards the end and I thought there was a bit of a mystery over what happened to him or his father. To summarise, I think that Safiyyah’s War is a wonderful novel that is unique, original and extraordinary. I would strongly recommend this book to avid readers aged 10+ and potentially people who are interested in history.

Lucy

The Fitzharrys Shadows

Saffiyah's War is a realistic portal into the darkness of World War I in France. Throughout the story you experience a wave of emotions as though you are in the mind of Saffiyah herself. The book keeps you hooked until the very end and gives you a valuable insight to the many struggles of war. The story teaches you compassion and gratitude and I frequently cried throughout the story. The story teaches to show kindness and love to all, no matter their race, background or belief for after all we are all humans. I loved the story and the morals behind the story and would strongly recommend it to young readers.

Khadija

Sharples Shadows

Saffiyah’s War is an amazing book that shows how terrible and horrible World War 2 was. It follows the life of Saffiyah who was a Muslim helping the Jews escape the Nazis in Paris. Saffiyah’s War highlights how hard it was for the Jews during the period of Nazi rule. The book shows how, as good humans, we should always be kind and compassionate no matter the circumstance. This was a fascinating book that gives an insight into the traumatic events of Word War 2 from the perspective of the people helping the Jews and the danger of helping them. This was an inspiring, page-turning book!

Stanley

Reader Leaders

I liked this book because of the of the setting in ww1 and how the book is really tense when she was leading the Jews through the catacombs. I rate this book a 6/10

Baasim

Ermysted’s

Safiyyahs War is INCREDIBLE!. I loved every little detail about it the happy ending was really nice and the final part was quite scary and heart racing material. I would recommend this to ANYONE who likes reading.

Mahiba

The Reading Queens

I really liked the writing in this book i thought it was eloquently written and has a deep resonance to todays conflict

Stirling

Ermysted’s

I liked this book. I think the premise was nice and thought that Safiyyah was amazing. I think the point of the book was important and Safiyyah was brave and kind for protecting and helping anyone who needed it.

Laura

The St. Bede’s Literary Critics

This book was an excellent read, and I think it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while. The story is so original and extraordinary. What I think is especially interesting about this book is the characters’ backgrounds. Stereotypically, a wartime book wouldn’t follow an ethnic minority as this book did. But where it gets better, is where, not only did it follow a group of Algerian Muslims during the War, but included their culture throughout the book - whether that would be more obvious, like the fact they live in a mosque, or more subtle like when the characters prayed in times of need. Another great part of this book was the historical accuracy. The book reminds us that people of different faiths will have come together in the past to help each other - with the example in the book being Muslims helping Jews during Nazi reign. Even though it was nice to see a change of viewpoints of WWII, I think the religious parts of the characters, albeit a very important part of the book, was unnecessarily dragged out in some bits. Someone who was completely unaware of practices in Islam, would probably have some difficulty understanding some parts of the book. However, on the whole, I think this book is spectacular and gives a whole new insight into WWII.

Muadh

Ermysted’s

Safiyyah's War is a beautiful, elegantly-woven story about a young Muslim girl in the French Resistance. The vivid descriptions and unique perspective make for a sorrowful, yet remarkable tale of the untold bravery of normal people, fighting against conflict and oppression. Throughout the book, Safiyyah grows into a courageous, awe-inspiring young woman, and her understanding of the world around her changes. I would definitely recommend this book, as it volunteers a special and unconventional viewpoint which is really interesting and unique.

Hidayah

KEVICHG

This book uncovers the story of the Grand Mosque in Paris in WWII in the form of an entertaining novel. Saffiyah's War retells the true events from the perspective of a young girl whose father was involved in the French Resistance. After reading the fascinating story, it was surprising to learn that the Grand Mosque's efforts in the Resistance were real. I definitely enjoyed the book, even as someone who primarily reads fantasy. The characters were brilliantly portrayed, the scenes described excellently - the words became images in my mind, playing out as a film in front of my eyes.

Aashaz

Ermysted’s

The fictional character of Safiyyah tells us the remarkable story of how hundreds of people were saved from the Nazis by members of the Great Mosque of Paris. Although most of the characters in the story are fictional, the story itself is based in fact. Many Jewish citizens were secretly given aid, shelter and an escape route by members of the Great Mosque. This is an inspiring story about community, friendship and doing the right thing, no matter how hard that may be.

Mrs Wright

Turnbull HS

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. So much happens in such short time. First Safiyyah finds out that her dad is forging fake reports to show that Jews are Muslim and when he gets arrested she decides to take on his work. Later her grandmother, Setti, dies which deeply sorrows her. And at the end of the book she has to lead a group of Jews through some underground tunnels to the sea so they can escape. The amount of responsibilities she had to take on are astonishing. I would recommend this book to 10-14 year old and rate it 8.5/10.

Bassit

Ermysted’s

Best one so far because I really liked the tense atmosphere that developed throughout the book. The retelling of a lesser known story was very refreshing and provided a new perspective into Nazi occupied France.

Aaron

Ermysted’s