Every summer I get a weekly text from AudioBooks Sync. The SYNC program is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+ that pairs two books weekly and allows people to download them for as long as needed to listen. I’ve found some really interesting reads over the years and have been intrigued how they pair them up.
For the third week of the SYNC this year, the books were both about boys running for their lives. I didn’t download both of them, but I did download the book On Two Feet & Wings, written and narrated by Abbas Kazerooni. This is the true story of Abbas and how he was forced to leave his parents, his friends—his entire world—and flee Tehran.
The book doesn’t go into details about the war, but it is aimed to show how one boy survived a really harrowing experience. Abbas’s family had been well off until the ruling party comes to power. They are still comfortable, but as they continue to lower the recruitment age for the army, his parents know that if he doesn’t leave Iran he will likely be drafted and die fighting for a regime that has stripped his family of all they have. The family sells off all they have left to get Abbas to Turkey where he can ask for a visa to England. However, when he and his mother get to the airport, the guards won’t let her go, but Abbas’s family still has him go on alone.
So imagine that you are not even 10 years old and you are being shipped off to a foreign country on your own when you don’t speak the language and you don’t know anyone. The person who was supposed to take care of him, one of his father’s friends, meets him at the airport and promptly tells him that he is on his own. Miraculously, Abbas manages to find a good hotel to live in and finds some people to help him along his way. Everyone calls him “little man,” a term that he enjoys and a truth that he has to live. But he also comes to realize that people are not always what they seem. He finds people to trust, only to have them betray that trust.
The story, though juvenile at times, was one that gripped me from the very beginning and held my attention throughout. You knew that somehow Abbas managed to get out of Turkey, but there was always questions of how, how long would it take, what was happening with his parents. Even though Abbas had lived a very sheltered and easy life in Tehran, he somehow manages to steal himself to his situation and push through the challenges. He was fighting to survive and did much better than most people could, constantly coming up with new ideas to both make money and keep himself occupied. However, when he celebrates his tenth birthday on his own, it nearly breaks your heart.
This is a very interesting look at the many reasons that people flee their countries and the strength of character you need to have to make it. Abbas was one of the lucky ones whose family was able to get him out. Countless others were sacrificed to a war that they didn’t necessarily believe in. The afterword was especially powerful, as Abbas explained that his story wasn’t special, that many people faced difficult situations to get away from the war. Though it deals with a harsh topic, there is very little violence and it is probably toned down from the real events. This book would work well for 4th – 7th grade.