From Far Away is a departure for Munsch. He usually writes wacky, silly tales of children getting into mischief. This is a story of young girl who moves from the war zone in Beirut to Canada. While at her new home, she writes to her reading buddy about the enormous changes in her new life. The
story is an especially important one for any children who may have a child from a similar situation in their class.
From Far Away is based on the real life of a first grade girl named Saoussan Askar, who moved to Canada, not speaking a word of English. She writes letters about the tragedy she endured in her homeland. Saoussan sits and listens, but she can’t understand a word. When she has to go to the bathroom, she waits until the teacher’s back is turned and then crawls out. She doesn’t know how to ask to go. Children can learn from this story that things aren’t always as they seem. If someone acts differently than they do, they should perhaps think if there might be reasons instead of making
fun of them.
She is terrified at a paper Halloween skeleton she sees in the hall since she has never experienced Halloween before. She is afraid the skeleton means that people will begin shooting each other like in her homeland. The teacher takes her on her lap to reassure her, and Saoussan pees her pants she is so scared.
From Far Away shows Saoussan (who changes her name to Susan until her mom tells her to change it back) grow from a frightened little girl to a big third grader who can speak English very well. She meets her teacher again the next year and wishes she were still her teacher since she has taught her so much.
There are very few childrens books that deal so well with war and moving to a new country. This book is written in such a way that any child confronting these issues will feel reassured that they are not alone. Children who are not English learners will feel empathy for those who struggle.