At my synagogue(s) I had often heard about the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially during the rabbis’ sermons. I realized t...moreAt my synagogue(s) I had often heard about the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially during the rabbis’ sermons. I realized that the destructive fighting had escalated as the years went on. However, I had often tuned some of it out, not fully grasping the horrors that were going on over there. After all, I live in America. I do not live in the vicinity of this conflict. Don’t get me wrong, I was aware of the situation, and I did care about the violence and bloodshed, however, until reading this book, I did not realize the extent of the situation, especially when it came to the lives of the children living there.
As the title suggests, in this book children from both sides of the conflict tell about their experiences living in this war-zone. The children, ranging in ages from 8 to 18, are frank about what is happening around them. The author gives us background before each child’s own words, helping us to understand more about their situation and the specific foci of the child’s story. It hardly seems fair to call them children, though, after reading these, as they have seen and dealt with so many adult issues and such violence. Many know people who have been killed or seriously injured in the destructive practices there.
There are many themes that are brought numerous times in the interviews; violence, hatred, and fear being top among these. Violence is seen or heard about everywhere. The children are accustomed to seeing soldiers with guns. Bombs and killing can occur anywhere, often seemingly without cause. Many talk about the fear that goes along with this and that they do not feel safe. People can get shot or bombed no matter if the victims are good or bad people. There is no escape from the war and children essentially live with PTSD (post-traumatic shock disorder).
Anger, resentment, animosity, and isolation were typical mentions by the children. Much of the hatred is directed at the soldiers, though animosity is projected at the opposite side as well. Many of the children have not even had contact with other children of the opposite side, due to the strict isolation of the Palestinians and Israelis. It sounded like Israelis had more freedom to move about and that there were many more restrictions for the Palestinians as to where they could go. To go to school (or anywhere), these children often had to wake up extremely early so that they could wait in line for hours just to get through a checkpoint. Soldiers had all the control as to how long they let people wait, no matter if the civilians were ill or elderly. Typically, even though children got up very early for school, they were still late. Curfews were imposed on Palestinians, as well, causing people to have to stay in there houses, and children to forgo school for those days, impeding their education and their freedom. If they went out, they could be shot. It is no wonder that there is much resentment and animosity.
A final common theme was the wish for peace. Although there were strong feelings toward from one side to the other, most children did not necessarily wish harm to the other side’s civilians, nor did they want this war to continue. The freedom of each side has been greatly hindered by this conflict and the children would like to see an end to the oppression and violence so that they can live normal lives.
So, how do we teach our students over here in North America (the author is actually Canadian) about the raging war between cultures occurring in Palestine and Israel? This book can serve as means for this. Teachers can use this book with 6th graders and up to guide them through an understanding of this ongoing conflict through the eyes of other children. This is an important element to the book. Often books and the news tell the information in terms of grown-ups and a third person view. This book allows children to learn that it is not just adults that are affected, but children as well. This makes the information much more accessible. There are also times where they can see that despite all of the seriousness of these experiences, children are still children, which our students here can relate to. For example when two 8 year olds were interviewed, they each said some things that made me chuckle. First was Danielle’s statement on page 41, when she mentions what she would wish for: “My three wishes? I have four: to have more wishes, to be a queen, to get whatever I want when I want it, and to see some TV stars for real.” I loved this because this exactly how a child her age might respond to that question here! Likewise, her friend, Gili, shows the contrast of an eight-year-old’s capacity to make a profound statement in one part and then make a very kid-like statement in the next. She talks about how a guard from her school had been killed (not when he was at the school). “Guards are supposed to protect us, but he couldn’t protect himself. If a bomb can kill a guard, it can also kill me or my family.” After this she continues an earlier discussion of how much she loves horses. “I keep asking my mother if I could keep one in my bedroom, and she always says no!” Students can compare this highly unrealistic request her earlier statement, to see how children living in the conditions there differ yet are similar to their own situations here. This could be especially poignant if the students live in an area threatened by gang violence. This book would be a wonderful resource for a 6th grade and higher classroom or school library.
My only criticism for the book is that the language seems a bit stinted. I realized that this is due to a lack of transition words connecting the sentences. I am not sure if this is because of the nature of the languages spoken by the children, or if it is simply the style of the author. I was also curious as to whether or not these children’s words were translated by an interpreter or the author, herself. It does not say. Nor does it say if these stories were prompted by questions and pieced together into one cohesive piece of writing, or if this is how the child spoke—in one solid, uninterrupted story. (less)
This is a wonderful, humorous tale adapted by renowned storyteller Eric A. Kimmel from a Yemenite story called, “The Answered Prayer.” As the author s...moreThis is a wonderful, humorous tale adapted by renowned storyteller Eric A. Kimmel from a Yemenite story called, “The Answered Prayer.” As the author states in his author’s note, although it was “not specifically a Joha story, it lent itself to Joha’s unique blend of wisdom and foolishness.” Joha is a well-known “wise-fool” character found in stories throughout the Middle East.
In this story, Joha finds a magical wishing stick on his journey to Baghdad. Excitedly, he wishes for a new pair of slippers to replace his tattered sandals. (A very practical wish, as his are so worn.) However, not only does he not get the new slippers, his own shoes are no longer on his feet! Angry that he now has to make his journey barefoot, he wishes that the stick would just disappear. The stick not only does not disappear, but it remains stuck to his hand. Of course, as such stories go, things only get worse—including an unfortunate run-in with the sultan. As he runs from the sultan’s men, he finds a wise ,old shopkeeper who, after allowing him to hide, asks him what is wrong. As Joha explains the day’s events, he bemoans the unluckiness of this wishing stick. Upon eying the stick, the wise shopkeeper points out the reason for poor Joha’s bad luck: the stick has been held upside-down the whole time, thus reversing all of the wishes that he has made. So, with the suggestion of the old man, he goes back to fix things with the sultan. What happens next, you will have to read for yourself. The ending is amusing and unexpected.
This story would be a great inclusion to a study of folktales! It could be used with a variety of ages of students from Kindergarten on up. It would be particularly great as part of a look at other multicultural stories containing wise-fool characters, such as the Juan Bobo tales from Spanish-speaking countries, and the people from Chelm found in Eastern-European Jewish stories. One of the things I really like about the book is that the author and illustrator depict the character in a respectful way, making Joha humorous without making him a stereotype, idiot sort of character. (less)
Set during the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan within the last decade, this is a story of a grandmother’s willingness to risk everything to pull he...moreSet during the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan within the last decade, this is a story of a grandmother’s willingness to risk everything to pull her granddaughter out of the darkness and into the light; a story of the power of reading and education to bring the spark back into a devastated little girl’s world; a story of women’s small triumph over the Taliban as they met secretly—illegally—to make sure that girls would be educated.
This book could be used with K-3 as a way for students to find out more about other children’s experiences with schooling in other places around the world—especially those of oppressed groups like girls/women. It is important to impart on them that not only do all children in the U.S. have this right to go to school, but that it is actually the law. It does not matter what your gender, religion, culture or skin color is. An education, it mentions in the book, is a way to open up our minds to the world. It gives us a mental freedom, even if a physical one is impossible. As the grandmother (the narrator) says about her granddaughter, “Nasreen no longer feels alone. The knowledge she holds inside will always be with her, like a good friend. Now she can see blue sky beyond those dark clouds.” And no one can take that knowledge away from her.
Perhaps this book is a bit simplistic in its portrayal of the situation in Afghanistan, but this does make the book accessible to younger children. They should know about the difficulties of other children in the world. This can serve as a base on which students and teachers can build further knowledge. (less)
Dark Sons is such an intriguing read! This story is told through poetry through the eyes of two teenage boys dealing with similar issues of being aban...moreDark Sons is such an intriguing read! This story is told through poetry through the eyes of two teenage boys dealing with similar issues of being abandoned by their fathers and having to deal with the love they have for their younger stepbrothers. What is so intriguing though is that one boy is of modern times, the other is Ishmael, the biblical son of Abraham. Through alternating stories, Nikki Grimes lets us see the possible perspectives of two boys separated by thousands of years, who could have dealt with very similar issues.(less)