Protagonist: Karim, 12
Grade Level: 7-10
This book is about Karim, a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy living in Ramallah during the Israeli occupation. Karim’s number one love in life is soccer. When he meets a boy named Hopper he stumbles on the perfect place to create a soccer field – an abandoned lot filled with rubble. Hopper, a boy living in the refugee camp, Karim, and Karim’s best friend Joni (a boy from a Christian family) decide to work on the lot to make it into a soccer field, and more importantly, into somewhere they could call their own. Ramallah is under Israeli curfew and becomes incredibly tense when Karim is trapped in the lot past curfew with no way out. This incredible story about life from the eyes of a Palestinian is powerful and realistic. It is a perspective that deserves attention and discussion.
Elizabeth Laird does a great job of developing realistic characters. I liked that Karim developed a lot of anger and hatred for the Israelis. It is only natural that would happen, and I am glad she didn’t hold back. It was also a nice combination to have the perspectives of a boy living in the refugee camps compared to Jani – a Christian boy, who’s family eventually left Ramallah. I think it’s important to show how diverse Palestinians are and how the Israeli occupation affected people in different ways. I am so fascinated by the conflict between Israel and Palestine so it was an enjoyable book for me to read. If I were a middle school or high school teacher I would love to read this book with something written from the Israeli perspective. It is really easy to take sides when you hear just one side of the argument, but it would an interesting discussion to try to figure out a way to make it right, or solve the conflict. Some other books that could go well with this one are Habibi, by Naomi Shihab Nye, Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, byIbtisam Barakat, or Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak, by Deborah Ellis. Also, there are plenty of other times in world history that one country has occupied another, and I think it could be worthwhile to read other accounts similar situations to compare experiences, precipitating events, and discuss why this is such a recurring theme in world history.