Having students choose a favorite quote or scene from the book allows them to express which parts of the story resonated with them on a personal level. In this way, students are making a text-to-self connection that demonstrates their understanding of the characters and their development or the themes of the novel. Students can share their storyboards afterwards and have a short discussion about what the quotes mean to them.
Some students may end up choosing the same quote or scene, but have different perspectives. This is always interesting for students to see and can open up a discussion as to how not everyone can read the same lines in the same way based on their own perspectives and personal experiences.
“Mahmoud Bishara was invisible, and that’s exactly how he wanted it. Being invisible was how he survived.”
“Wearing that uniform turned boys into monsters. Josef had seen it happen.”
“He hated that man. Hated him because of everything he’d done to the Jews, but mostly because of what Hitler had done to his father.”
“He thought they had escaped all this on the St. Louis. But the hatred had followed them even here, to the middle of the ocean.”
“It was a different world below decks, Josef thought. A world outside the magic little bubble he and the other Jews lived in above decks on the MS St. Louis. Here, below decks, was the real world.”
"It all came flooding back to him now—swaying and humming along with the prayers, craning his neck to see the Torah when it was taken out of the ark and hoping to get a chance to touch it and then kiss his fingers as the scroll came around in a procession. Josef felt his skin tingle. The Nazis had taken all this from them, from him, and now he and the passengers on the ship were taking it back."
"The Nazis laughed, and Josef’s face burned hot with shame. He struggled in the men’s arms, trying to break free. “I’ll be a man soon enough,” Josef told them. “I’ll be a man in six months and eleven days.” The Nazis laughed again. “Six months and eleven days!” the Brownshirt said. “Not that he’s counting.” The Brownshirt suddenly turned serious. “Perhaps you’re close enough that we should take you to a concentration camp too, like your father.”
"Isabel was listening for the clave underneath the music, the mysterious hidden beat inside Cuban music that everybody seemed to hear except her. An irregular rhythm that lay over the top of the regular beat, like a heartbeat beneath the skin. Try as she might, she had never heard it, never felt it. She listened now, intently, trying to hear the heartbeat of Cuba in her own music."
"Isabel listened as everyone listed more and more things they were looking forward to in the States. Clothes, food, sports, movies, travel, school, opportunity. It all sounded so wonderful, but when it came down to it, all Isabel really wanted was a place where she and her family could be together, and happy"
"She had never been able to count clave, but she had always assumed it would come to her eventually. That the rhythm of her homeland would one day whisper its secrets to her soul. But would she ever hear it now? Like trading her trumpet, had she swapped the one thing that was really hers—her music—for the chance to keep her family together?"
“Please!” Mahmoud cried. He sobbed with the effort of fighting off the man’s fingers and hanging onto the dinghy. “Please, take us with you!” “No! No room!” “At least take my sister!” Mahmoud begged. “She’s a baby. She won’t take up any room!”
"Mahmoud watched as these two boys attacked the boy with the bread, a boy he didn’t even know. He felt the stirrings of indignation, of anger, of sympathy. His breath came quick and deep, and his hands clenched into fists. “I should do something,” he whispered. But he knew better. Head down, hoodie up, eyes on the ground. The trick was to be invisible. Blend in. Disappear."
"Instead, Herr Meier lowered a screen with the faces and profiles of Jewish men and women on it and proceeded to use Josef as an example of how to tell a real German from a Jew. He turned Josef this way and that, pointing out the curve of his nose, the slant of his chin. Josef felt the heat of that embarrassment all over again, the humiliation of being talked about like he was an animal. A specimen. Something subhuman."
"Everywhere around them, people fled into the streets, covered in gray dust and blood. No sirens rang. No ambulances came to help the wounded. No police cars or emergency crews hurried to the scene. There weren’t any left."
"Mahmoud screamed. He howled louder than a fighter jet, and his parents didn’t even tell him to hush. Lights came on in houses nearby, and curtains ruffled as people looked out at the noise. Mahmoud’s mother broke down in tears, and his father let the life jackets he carried drop to the ground. The smuggler had just told them their boat wasn’t leaving tonight. Again. “No boat today. Tomorrow. Tomorrow,” he’d told Mahmoud’s father."
"Suddenly, Josef saw what he had to do. He slapped his father across the face. Hard. Papa staggered in surprise, and Josef felt just as shocked as his father looked. Josef couldn’t believe what he’d just done. Six months ago, he would never have even dreamed of striking any adult, let alone his father. Papa would have punished him for such disrespect. But in the past six months, Josef and his father had traded places. Papa was the one acting like a child, and Josef was the adult."
“Thank you! Thank you!” Isabel cried. Her heart ached with gratitude toward these people. Just a moment’s kindness from each of them might mean the difference between death and survival for her mother and everyone else on the little raft."
"The vacationers dropped their voices, and even though Mahmoud couldn’t understand what they were saying, he could hear the disgust in their words. This wasn’t what the tourists had paid for. They were supposed to be on holiday, seeing ancient ruins and beautiful Greek beaches, not stepping over filthy, praying refugees. They only see us when we do something they don’t want us to do, Mahmoud realized."
“I wish from the bottom of my heart that you will land soon, Little Man,” Officer Padron said again. “I’m sorry. I’m just doing my job.” Josef looked deep into Officer Padron’s eyes, searching for some sign of help, some hint of sympathy. Officer Padron just looked away."
“We’re not criminals!” one of the other men in the cell yelled at him. “We didn’t ask for civil war! We didn’t want to leave our homes!” another man yelled. “We’re refugees!” Mahmoud yelled, unable to stay silent any longer. “We need help!”
“Don’t you see?” Lito said. “The Jewish people on the ship were seeking asylum, just like us. They needed a place to hide from Hitler. From the Nazis. Mañana, we told them. We’ll let you in mañana. But we never did.” Lito was crying now, distraught. “We sent them back to Europe and Hitler and the Holocaust. Back to their deaths. How many of them died because we turned them away? Because I was just doing my job?”
Whether you were visible or invisible, it was all about how other people reacted to you. Good and bad things happened either way. If you were invisible, the bad people couldn’t hurt you, that was true. But the good people couldn’t help you, either."
"She was finally counting clave. Lito was wrong. She didn’t have to be in Havana to hear it. To feel it. She had brought Cuba with her to Miami."
"I don’t remember much about him, but I do remember he always wanted to be a grown-up. “I don’t have time for games,” he would tell me. “I’m a man now.” And when those soldiers said one of us could go free and the other would be taken to a concentration camp, Josef said, “Take me.” My brother, just a boy, becoming a man at last."
He was filled with sadness for the boy his age. The boy who had died so Ruthie could live. But Mahmoud was also filled with gratitude. Josef had died so Ruthie could live, and one day welcome Mahmoud and his family into her house."
(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)
Objective: Create a storyboard that identifies your favorite quote or scene in Refugee. Illustrate the scene and write why you chose it.
Grade Level 6-8
Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)
Type of Assignment IndividualCommon Core Standards