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Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  587 ratings  ·  150 reviews
At the start of 1991, eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.

Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family survived bombings, food shortages, and constant fear. Ali and his brothers play
Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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3.88  · 
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 ·  587 ratings  ·  150 reviews

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May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein is inspired by the true story of Ali Fadhil, a boy living in Basra, Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991. Ali was like other children and went to school, loved to play football, read comics and play video games, but what set him apart from others was that he had a myriad of things to worry about, including a war right on his doorstep. Rather than living a life of peace, Ali had to deal with living in a safe room with his siblings and parents in fear of bombs. ...more
This book is a wonderful and quick read for a younger audience that would like to learn more about world events through the eyes of a peer. Ali, is telling the story of 1991 events with Iraq and Kuwait and later catched up to more relevant issues with Saddam. It was written to keep the attention of a younger reader while still educating them about what daily life was like during war.

The MAIN nagative point I have with this book is the title. i think it is kind of misleading and doesn't make a T
I'm a big fan of realistic historical fiction and this book for middle school kids jumps right up there with my top favorites. I'm curious as to how much of this book is actually fiction and not fictionalized, but either way, I found it simply un-put-downable. I was in high school during the first Iraq war and I remember it fairly well. My friends and I were fascinated by it, in a naively idealistic, we-are-the-saviors-of-the-world kind of way. To read about the war from the perspective of a kid ...more
Ms. Yingling
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ali lives in Basra, Iraq in 1991 with his family, including brothers Ahmed and Shirzad and young sister Shireen. His mother is a math professor, his father is a dentist and army medic reservist, and the family lives a comfortable life complete with video games and American television programs. Ali has known war for much of his life, but when the US prepares to launch Dessert Storm attacks, he realizes how much more serious this war is. Since bridges have be
I had no idea what to expect with this book and ended up really enjoying it. I read it for the February #yabookchat discussion on Twitter. It tells the story of Ali Fadhil, the co-author of the book, who was a boy in Iraq during Desert Storm. This is his retelling of what it was like for those 40 days, and then his work as a translator during Saddam Hussein's trials later. My only drawback: it did read like a co-authored biographical work, meaning that some points were choppy/disjointed since it ...more
Mississippi Library Commission
When Ali was eleven, all he wanted to do was play soccer and video games. He had as normal a life as can be expected growing up in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, although he was bullied some for being half-Kurdish. Then, the country he most admires, the United States, is suddenly embroiled in a war with his country. Extremely well-written and impossible to put down, this book is perfect for middle schoolers that like reading about regular kids in exceptional times.
Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens
Fadhil’s childhood in Iraq forms the basis of this dramatic fictionalized account of life during Operation Desert Storm, the 43-day war that followed Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991.
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
While I was generally annoyed by how the actual atari playing was a plot point at the very beginning and very end of the story with nothing added throughout, I understand that the point was merely to showcase the things that were given up during war time only to be picked back up afterward.

This is the story of Ali's family, living in Basra, south of Baghdad and just next to Kuwait after Hussain decided to take Kuwait for himself and American along with other nations decided to fight back agains
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is amazing. I very much recommend it for adult readers, and I would hesitate to have a middle grader read it if they are anything like me. I'm around the same age as the authors, and reading this boy's perspective on living under such horrific rule that we all watched from the safety of the USA made me just sick. This story is inspiring and scary and amazing. A must read.
Chance Lee
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-fic
A cute map at the beginning taught me some geography, but this story isn't for me. I like books that weave the setting into the story. In this book, the setting is the story. The first two chapters are almost exclusively the narrator addressing the reader, telling us the context of the story. I wanted to read it long enough to see if the narrator thought his Atari game would save the initials he put into the high score board (it won't), but I couldn't.
Scottsdale Public Library
I was close to the age of Jennifer Roy's protagonist during Operation Desert Storm, so it was interesting to experience the war from a young Iraqi's perspective. Based on events from Ali Fadhil's childhood, we meet Ali and his family in the city of Basra during the war: schools are closed, food is dispersed in rations, and citizens are just trying to make it through each day. Yet Ali and his friends are still kids, coming together to play ball, making a game of scavenging through war debris, and ...more
Wendy MacKnight
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-read
Love historical middle grade, and this book, about the 1991 Iraq War, does not disappoint. Excellent read.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I plan on recommending this one widely as a middle grade historical fiction option. Ali's experiences growing up during the first Gulf War were very real and engaging. Lining up for rations, playing soccer in the empty streets, reading comic books again and again, sleeping on the floor of a safe room, being careful of bullies whose father's are well-connected politically; these were all daily realities. This narrative was based closely on the co-author Ali Fadhil's life and the story absolutely ...more
Ms. Jackson
Dec 14, 2018 rated it liked it
A possible theme is that sometimes it may be hard to see that someone else is struggling, especially if you are struggling too.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
The unique title is what made me research this book. When I found out it was based on a true story of a boy who had survived Operation Desert Storm, I knew I had to read it. I haven’t read any literature on that particular historical event and I was glad to see that this book was specifically geared towards the younger audience. I was a toddler during Desert Storm, but when the Second Persian Gulf War took place, I was old enough to be aware of the situation and remember it. Some children today ...more
Beth Parmer
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 ⭐, I love that the size of the book and the writing style is approachable for middle grade and older readers who may not have the stamina for long books or complex texts. Many readers may not have the background knowledge for this subject, but Roy clearly describes the setting, and explains in simple terms things like the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Ali Fadhil as co-author shares an authentic perspective that you can feel as you read. ...more
Mary Lee
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating that the family is Christian and Kurdish. There are students in my school for whom this book will be a mirror, but for the rest of us...what a powerful window.
Jo Oehrlein
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
An Iraqi boy's view of Desert Storm, from Basra. His family is no fan of Saddam Hussein; I don't know if that makes it better or worse when they suffer during the war.

Plain talk about food rationing, being hungry, not having running water or electricity, watching for planes when playing outside, not getting enough sleep due to bombing, worrying about whether their father is alive (he's a medic), torture of people who oppose the Ba'athist party, and watching the execution of several men in the st
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
14 year old Ali Fadhil, is a lot like any other boy his age. He loves comic books,video games, playing football in the street with his friends and watching American television. But, unlike some kids, he and his family huddle together in their "safe room" in Basra, Iraq, through the 43 days of Desert Storm--an American bombing effort to stop the dictator, Saddam Hussein, from occupying nearby Kuwait. Ali often dreams of himself in a video game or as a comic book character where the good guys alwa ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s always interesting to gain a new perspective on a topic I’m not overly familiar with.

I am truly blessed to live in America.
Addison V
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is book is based on a true story. Its is about war told from a 14 year old boys, Ali, perspective. He told stories of what he was going through. Him and his family were right around the corner from where the fighting was happening. Ali's friends were also affected by the fighting. Ali very much disliked the president, Saddam Hussein. The US was trying to defeat Saddam and get him out of office. When Ali was 28 years old he was a translator in Saddam's trial. The President was later executed ...more
Alissa Haley
I won a copy through a Goodreads Giveaway!
Maxim Shekhtman
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interesting story of a person who was living in Iran in the early 90s during Saddam Hussein's rule. It describes the hardships of war, and life under a dictator, which in this case, is Saddam Hussein.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you @kidlitexchange and the publisher for allowing me to read a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read and yet very captivating. I appreciate the book for giving me insight into what it was like in Iraq at the time of Saddam's rule. This book allowed me to not only see it from the other side but to really experience it through Ali's eyes. This is one of my favorite things about reading: being transported to another time and situation tha
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kidlit
Valuable perspective on living during a war, but so curious that the narrator never feels any animus towards the American bombs raining down on his city.
Clare Lund
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating “slightly fictionalized biography” of co-author Ali Fadhil during his childhood in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. This account is eye-opening about the terrors of growing up during war, but with the innocent optimism of a child narrator. Powerful and quick read — ages 10 and up.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Really affecting novel that is more appropriate for older middle grade readers, around 11 to 12 or so. Complete review to come.

Full review:

A young person myself during the 1991 U.S. war against Iraq, this book really widened my eyes. At that time, I wasn't interested all that much in the news, so while I was aware of the war going on, I didn't understand much about it. I've learned more since, but this book gave me a whole new perspective on the conflict. I will discuss the plot in some
Zach Koenig
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hundreds of books are published each year (for all reading and grade levels) that focus on the lives of people struggling to get through World War II. That is a very well-researched and "comfortable" (in the sense that it happened far enough go to be more "history" than "reality" to most living people) genre to find stories in. A bit more rare is wartime fiction featuring most recent conflicts, and by focusing on the early-1990s Gulf War that is what "Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein" builds it ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-school
I will admit I was skeptical at first, since the book is dedicated to the “brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces.” Knowing what I do about the First Iraq War, that it was sold to Americans on a mountain of war propaganda by the George HW Bush Administration, I wondered,
“Is this book going to be more pro-American war propaganda?”
And while the protagonist Ali loves all things American, especially his prized comic book collection, and even hopes the American soldiers will rescue hi
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this book from Goodreads.

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story
Basra, Iraq

"Soon, America- the land I love- is going to try to kill me. I'll try not to take it personally."

Eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.

"Saddam Hussein is the president of Iraq. George Bush is the president of
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Also writes educational books as Jennifer Rozines Roy