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Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  233 ratings  ·  53 reviews
It is an unlikely story. Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan, a child from a Palestinian refugee camp, confronts an occupying army, gets an education, masters an instrument, dreams of something much bigger than himself, and then, through his charisma and persistence, inspires scores of others to work with him to make that dream real. The dream: a school to transform the lives of thous ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2014)
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Anyone who read and appreciated The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East will certainly also appreciate Children of the Stone where Tolan follows the life of one of the stone-throwing children of one of the over crowded Palestinian refugee camps of the West Bank. Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan is one of these children, but he has a dream and also comes under the influence of many individuals who assist him in developing and furthering that dream. The dream--to use music to help ...more
Imen  Benyoub
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: palestine
How wonderful to start the year with an incredible book, I am not entirely ready to write a review about this particular book, I feel overwhelmed and extremely grateful, but angry and frustrated at the same time.. I'll get back to this, until then, chokran Sandy Tolan, you did it again.. Officially one of the best who wrote about the Israeli Palestinian conflict xx thank you very much for your honesty, hard work and dedication..this book must be read by everyone who wishes to know the truth abou ...more
Sunday, July 12, update: Ramzi and Sandy Tolan gave an interview to Lynn Neary on Weekend Edition this morning.

May 2015, original comments:
Very good. This is the story of children learning to play music in a war zone.

Ramzi, as an eight-year-old Palestinian refugee, threw stones at Israeli soldiers. A photographer caught the 1988 incident, and Ramzi became famous. Seven years later, he picked up a viola, suggested for his large hands. Over time, Ramzi pa
May 17, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
I ended up being disappointed in this book. Initially it was good to humanize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and see more of the PLO's side, but the book was far more about politics than music. Since the music side of the story was why I truly wanted to read it, I quickly fatigued. When my library check out period expired, I had little reason to renew. ...more
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Okay, maybe it seems like I’m giving all books high ratings these days, but this was amazing. A friend gave me this book due to my obvious interests in Arabic and music. What Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan is doing for children in Lebanon and Palestine is pure magic. His story is amazing, and I hope that our paths will cross and I will be able to hear him play and meet him someday. I really admire his courage and passion to stay devoted to Palestine. His tough decisions regarding leaving the Divan Orch ...more
Dec 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was both heartwarming and very sad. People who live as we do in the United States need to read books like this to understand what is happening to people just like us with needs and wants, and how many of them have such struggles. I am doing a whole batch of books together that I have read this year, I did not read them all today.
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Sandy Tolan, author my all-time favorite book about the Middle East, "The Lemon Tree, A Jew, A Palestinian, and the Heart of the Middle East," has written another excellent book about that troubled land and desperate people. It's not quite as compelling as "The Lemon Tree ..." perhaps because it so exhaustively researched that it suffers from too much detail. But this is a small quibble in comparison with what you will learn and come to appreciate from reading this book about one man's struggle ...more
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan is a child of the occupation, born and raised in Al Amari refugee camp near Ramallah in the West Bank. "Children of the Stone" chronicles Ramzi's journey from stone thrower to music student to school founder, and "shows how, through his love of music, he created something lasting and beautiful in a land torn by violence and war."

In the Introduction, Tolan writes: "in 'Children of the Stone' I hope to show what it's like for ordinary Palestinians to live under a military o
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
This well-reported book tells the story of Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan, a Palestinian who threw stones at Israeli soldiers when he was a child, was introduced to music as a youth, studied music in France for seven years and returned home to start a music school.
Ramzi continued to throw verbal stones, however. As I read this, I admired Ramzi but sometimes wondered if he could have accomplished more by being a little more conciliatory. But I haven't lived his life, and I'm in no position to judge.
Reem Anani
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thought it was a remarkable book, its right on, and i can relate. i totally recommend it.
Martha Fiorentini
Nov 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Having previously read Jimmy Carter's Peace not Apartheid, I was aware of the Palestinian plight.
I thought that this story was well told.
Trying to achieve peace through music is a noble goal.
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Eye-opening and inspirational account of a Palestinian refugee whose life and dreams are transformed by music. Incredible true story!
Makiko Hirata
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
What can I do for the world, and its problems and sufferings, as a classical musician? I've been reading many books in my quest. I just finished "Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land" by Sandy Tolan ( It is a nonfiction about a Palestinian violist, Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan, and his mission to assert the Palestinian presence to the world with his music.
Ramzi's photo as an eight-year-old throwing stones at an Israeli tank captured intern
As someone who lived in Palestine for 9 months and taught music at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, I really enjoyed this book. I even personally know some of the people featured in it :)

I think it's a wonderful and inspiring account of a young boy with big dreams, using music to help in the face of a horrible situation. There is also a lot of historical information about the history of Palestine and Israel. There are extensive footnotes for additional information and resources.

Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I'm just mesmerized by the success Ramzi has had and feel heart broken that Palestine is not the reality it should be. After reading this second book by Tolan, I can see that the Israeli government is not at all innocent of war crimes and blatant mistreatment of refugees. Yes, many Israelis have a deep-seeded fear that the Other wants them annihilated - how can they not after the holocaust and other atrocities. Yet they are letting this fear guide them in treating the Palestinians in a way that ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Young Palestinian Ramzi threw stones at the occupying Israeli soldiers in his refuge camp. For the rest of his life, as he deals with the continuing upheaval of discrimination, segregation, and loss, he is finding life and purpose in music, bringing it to the suffering children in the war zones of Palestine, and gathering musicians from around the world to perform together in their common language.

If you are convinced of the sovereignty of Israel, this story will offend you. If you believe in fr
Noor Saadeh
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
My heart gets heavier and heavier reading ever more books on Palestine. Yet I read more. More atrocities and more questions as to why we continue to support what is happening there. The biggest question is why those who suffered unheard of atrocities can turn around and inflict the same on others - innocent others. Muslims who have historically been the only people to not only shelter their Jewish brethren but actually invite those who were persecuted elsewhere - in.

An amazing story. I heard the
Constance Chevalier
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A humongous task to get through it but well worth it. The story includes the history behind the grandfather Sido of the young boy Ramzi in Palestine and how he learned to play the viola, work with Daniel Barenboim, Edward Said and Yo-Yo Ma to create the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and bring music, instraments, and musicians to Gaza and the West Bank; bring talented Palestinian youth to France and Italy on scholarship; create the music school Al Kamandjati all the while dealing with the injustic ...more
Olivia Walker
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Both of the books by this author reveal a life from a point of view we rarely see depicted on TV, Film or news. We get a very one sided “picture” of life in Israel and Palestine. These stories are told well and fill a bit of the void in literature devoted to this subject. Having read the Lemon Tree years ago before a trip to the area, I was glad to find Children of the Stone.
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-studies
This is a dual story. It's about a man with a dream. He wants to bring music, classical music, to an underrepresented area, Palestine. But he also wants to make the world aware of what's happening there. Sad. Beautiful. Many emotions. ...more
Beverly Atkinson
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Please, everyone, read this amazing non-fiction book by Sandy Tolan, author of “The Lemon Tree” and other works. I laughed and cried and cried and laughed again and again.
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent on providing info about struggle

This book opened my eyes and made me grateful for the freedom of speech and religion in my country. Everyone should read!
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When I was eight years old my grandmother bought me a piano and mom enrolled me in piano lessons. I used to think that if anyone where to break into the house with hostile intent, some monster from the movies, all I needed to do was sit and play music and it would calm and subdue the monster. Perhaps this is not true literally, but today research is showing that music education has therapeutic value, relieving stress, releasing emotions, improving mood and resolving conflicts. I knew that as a t ...more
D Dina Friedman
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was fascinating and important to read--even if emotionally hard to stomach at times.
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In the years since I first read Sandy Tolan's earlier book, "The Lemon Tree," I have recommended it to many people. In"The Lemon Tree," Tolan tells the stories of a Palestinian family and a Jewish Bulgarian family who survived the Holocaust, and the reader gets to hear both perspectives in a balanced way, which is why it's such a good resource for people who are beginning to learn about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In "Children of the Stone" Tolan focuses on Ramzi,who grew up in a refugee camp
This book was wonderful! Tolan is an excellent and knowledgeable writer about Palestine and its troubled relationship with Israel. (His book, The Lemon Tree, is also one of my favorites.) Here, he combines his empathy and expertise about the desperate situation Palestinians find themselves in, with a surprising topic, the power of music to change lives. He follows one ofthe children of a Palestinian refugee camp, Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan, as he first is photographed by an AP photographer as an ei ...more
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A sad, honest, hopeful and necessary book. The story of Razmi, the young violist who founded a music school for refugee children in Ramallah, is astonishing. Tolan also deals well (and, for the most part, accurately) with the political background. If this is, in some ways, a softer book than the outstanding "Goliath", it still leaves you wondering why innocent children should have to suffer this way. Thank heavens for music, and caring adults! They are not enough; what these children need is equ ...more
The story of Ramzi, a Palestinian boy who discovered music through a teacher, was offered an opportunity to study viola, and ended up creating a music conservatory for children in the Palestinian territories. The story weaves the recent history of Palestinians from the creation of Israel through the present with
Ramzi's personal story of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, getting opportunities to study music outside his home area while still being passionate about an independent country for his
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was afraid at first that this book would be too sad to read, because the world of the Palestinians is so bleak in so many ways - but it was enthralling. Tolan is evenhanded and fair as he discusses the differences in approach between the founder of Al Kamandjati and Daniel Barenboim's east-west orchestra, and his terse way of juxtaposing what happens to the Palestinians with the remarks made by US and Israeli politicians is devastating. I looked at AK's website and it's about a year out of dat ...more
Halldór Thorgeirsson
This book is about the power of music and the impact it can have on children and youth living in the most difficult circumstances in Palestine. It is up close and personal in particular about the emotions, aspirations and achievements of the Ramzi Aburedwan, which as a child is exposed to classical music, gets good training in France and returns to the West Bank to start a music school. It was also interesting to get more insight into the backstory behind the East-West Divan orchestra and Edward ...more
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Sandy Tolan is a teacher and radio documentary producer. He is the author of two books: Me and Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-Five Years Later (Free Press, 2000), about the intersection between race, sports, and American heroes; and The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2006). The Washington Post called the book “extraordinary” and selected it among their ...more

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