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A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return
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A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  3,359 ratings  ·  474 reviews
When Zeina was born, the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for six years, so it's just a normal part of life for her and her parents and little brother. The city of Beirut is cut in two, separated by bricks and sandbags and threatened by snipers and shelling. East Beirut is for Christians, and West Beirut is for Muslims. When Zeina's parents don't return one afternoon ...more
Hardcover, 188 pages
Published August 2012 by Graphic Universe (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  3,359 ratings  ·  474 reviews

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Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
"A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return" didn't do much for me. It tells the story of two children spending the night in their foyer while their parents are stuck just blocks away behind the east/west barricade. Neighbors stop by, some worrying ensues, we get a backstory or two, then the graphic novel ends.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room: the artistic similarities here between this graphic novel and Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis" graphic novels. Zeina Abirached owes a lot to
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, comics
Much like I Remember Beirut, this is a graphic novel memoir of Abirached's childhood during the civil war in Lebanon. But it approaches the idea from a different perspective. I Remember Beirut was a scattered, but effective, glimpse at a difficult life through details only. A Game for Swallows is a single day in depth, which allows for more perspective, more storytelling, and more character growth. Both books are equally absorbing, and together give a much fuller idea of the life that Abirached ...more
Shellie Foltz
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Game for Swallows was my first foray into a graphic texts. The subject matter seemed incongruous with the format, yet now that I’ve experienced it, I can’t imagine a better way of approaching it. The artwork is sufficiently innocent, providing a stark contrast (just as stark as the black and white pages) to the wartime setting. The author doesn’t shy away from what is going on outside the apartment and never lets you forget what is happening, but just as the characters (and I do mean character ...more
A night of bombing in Baghdad and all the neighbors meet up in the safest house of the building. And we learn their stories.
The book is actually very "light", seen from the perspective of a child. The drawing is very good. I just wish I learned something more about the war. I know nothing and the book didn't say much, just the personal stories and some information about the situation at that time.
First Second Books
So beautiful and sad.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
The illustrations in this graphic novel are all in black and white, intense, no shades of gray, emphasizing the gravity of the situation a handful of people in an apartment building in Beirut, Lebanon, find themselves in as they wait for the snipers to stop shooting. Zeina and her little brother wait for their parents to return from a trip across town to visit their grandmother. The entire story takes place in the space of a day and night.

The author bases this on her own experiences as a child
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-books
Based on Lebanese (1975-90) civil war, this nonfiction comic offers a view in the mutual support system that people build up among themselves during war. The work is not as sharp as Marjane's Persepolis or Joe Sacco's Palestine. But I love the beautiful illustrations in rich black and white. ...more
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I think it's hard to find stories about war that are appropriate for kids. This graphic novel does a good job at showing exactly what living in a war torn country can be like. ...more
Barbara McEwen
It was ok. The book is a memoir about being a kid during the Lebanese civil war but, not a lot actually happens. I guess I have read quite a few graphic memoirs now and this one doesn't have a lot of substance or feeling? The illustrations are quite similar to Persepolis. ...more
Ms. Mester
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic, ya, graphics
Really resonated as we're isolating as a community during a pandemic that everything can always be so much worse. I liked that everything took place on one night, adding even more tension and helping the reader understand the realities of living in a city in civil war. The only problem with this concept is that we don't learn much about the community other than quick snapshots. The art is gorgeous, intricate and expressive. Would be a good jumping off place for teens/adults learning about this c ...more
Feb 03, 2021 rated it liked it
Best part was the art style. It's gorgeous with lots of of flowy, curly air and emphasizes the plot well. ...more
In war-torn Beirut, two children await the return of their parents, who left earlier in the day to visit the kids’ grandmother in an adjacent neighborhood. Set in 1984 and based on the life story of the author, this story feels like a more concise relative of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. The tale takes place almost completely during one night. We learn about Lebanon and the conflict there through the stories of the children’s neighbors, who gather in the family apartment as shells blast the st ...more
In the same way that Persepolis touched many hearts and informed many minds about parts of the Middle East, this stunning graphic novel describes the lives of ordinary men, women, and children in war-torn Beirut, Lebanon, in 1984. Drawing from her own experience as a child, the author/illustrator describes an event that typifies how her parents and neighbors endured those challenging times when even a visit to someone a couple of streets away could result in death from a sniper. When her parents ...more
A Game for Swallows is a graphic memoir of life in Lebanon during their civil war in the '80's. Zeina and her family live in an apartment building that is situated right next to the dividing line. One night, Zeina's parents leave home to check on family members across town, risking their lives to pass through various security checkpoints and sniper territory. While the parents are out, the neighbors drop in to check on Zeina and her little brother. As time passes, more and more of the apartment' ...more
Michelle Pegram
This graphic novel is the story of two young children who live with their parents in an apartment in Lebanon in 1984 during the civil war which has been going on for 9 years. They live in the foyer of their apartment because it is the place that is the safest should a bomb hit their building, and each night, as the bombings begin, their neighbors gather in their apartment for safety. The story starts on a night when their parents have not made it home from their Grandmother's house that is mere ...more
Nicola Mansfield
Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I read the follow-up to this, "I Remember Beirut", first and enjoyed that much better. This is a single episode of a family and group of friends experiencing a bombing during the Lebanese Civil War. The story isn't political or religious. We just sit in a room with the people as they wait out the bombing and fear for two children's parents who were visiting down the street before the bombs started. An autobiographical story but I didn't find any connection with anyone and mostly found the tale u ...more
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The story takes place during a few hours one evening when the bombing intensifies and the kids are waiting for their parents to return from their grandma's house. The houses are separated by strategically placed containers and barricades to deflect a sharp shooter's view as people need to travel from one side to the other of the artificial divide. As the children wait in the small hallway of their first-floor apartment, neighbors drop in on them, not only because the children are alone, but also ...more
I had expected more of this one. It did show various things from the lives of the family and friends that were present at the time the parents weren't around, and we do find out quite a bit about the situation going on in the region, yet in the end it is still so little, it just skimming the surface. The book takes place during the time that the parents weren't around (visiting grandma) til the moment the parents come back. I knew the book would be partially about that event, however I hadn't ex ...more
Madison Stone
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
I would give A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return 3 stars. This book takes place during the Lebanese war. Zeina's parents take a trip to her grandmother's while Zeina stays in a small apartment with all of her neighbors while they wait for her parents to return home. Readers learn the backstory of each neighbor introduced. I would recommend this book to people with large attention spans because after meeting all of the neighbors their names get mixed up. For me, all of the named were ...more
Nashwa S
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
One sitting was all it took!

I enjoyed both the story and the artwork. Reminded me a bit of Persepolis but this just captures the story of one night of a close knit community. I read the foreword before starting and it’s interesting that a question was raised asking what exactly is the point of wars? It’s just old people sending young people to die.

But in your daily life, just imagine getting from one place to another, timing your movements with a sniper.

So glad I found a copy because I've bee
Tanvir Muntasim
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
What is life like when you are caught in a long drawn out civil war? A memoir set in war torn Beirut, this one captures the life of a closely knit community over a shell shocked evening, and portrays ordinary people showing extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of an unending conflict. Beautifully drawn in an unorthodox way, the people sound like the ones we are surrounded by in our lives, and when you can identify them as such, it's all the more heartbreaking. ...more
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting and beautiful portrayal of a conflict I had little knowledge of. The child's perspective was effective in conveying a mix of banality, sudden fear, and creeping dread, while also showing small pleasures. I loved the illustration style. ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent graphic novel about the Lebanese Civil War, told more or less from a child's point of view. ...more
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Damn you, Sarah!

But, it's pretty amazing that this revolved around one day and so many lives. I was glad for the update at the end.
Jessica Růžková
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Economical and elegant; Abirached’s capacity to portray affinities and relationships made for a very moving reflection on the devastation that is war and loss.
Olavia Kite
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cried.
Makenzie Rivera
Oct 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Greg Bem
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Incredible book. A fantastic look at Lebanon as a place for war and a place for survival.
Trigger warnings: war, death, violence, explosions.

This is a very simple but very effective graphic novel about the author's childhood memories of growing up in Beirut in the 1980s and of the night when her parents get stuck at her grandmother's house, leaving her and her brother in the care of the other residents of their apartment building during a bombing.

There's very little text and the art is stunning. I know almost nothing about the civil war in Lebanon, and this served as a decent intro
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libs678
Son of a Gun
A Game For Swallows: to die, to leave, to return

Pairing and overview:
“A Game For Swallows” is a memoir written by Zeina Abirached about her time in the war torn East Beirut, Lebanon. Sandbags and barrels line the streets of Zeina’s neighborhood to protect the citizens from snipers bullets. In her home, the foyer proves to be the only safe place that her family can find refuge from the violence happening outside. We join the family on a typical night. Zeina’s parents have made the da
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William Champlin Book Review #3 1 2 Jun 16, 2018 08:30PM  
BYU-Adolescent Li...: A Game for Swallows To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached 1 5 Jun 13, 2013 11:55PM  
Zeina's Grandmother 1 7 May 12, 2013 06:19PM  

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Zeina Abirached was born in Beirut, Lebanon. She studied graphic arts in Beirut and later in Paris, France. She has published 3 graphic novels: 'Beyrouth-Catharsis' '38, Rue Youssef Semaani' and 'Mourir, Partir, Revenir - Le Jeu des Hirondelles'. These were originally published in French, and have been translated into Dutch, Italian, and Spanish. Her mainly autobiographical works, illustrated in b ...more

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