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Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein
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Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  979 ratings  ·  213 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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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
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
Wow. I just realized how ignorant I had been about the war-torn Iraq. The news I have heard about it over the years were not enough to paint me its despairing picture. It took a kid's perspective on the crisis for me to feel as emphatic as I should have been long ago. There was so much I learned about Iraq and its culture through this book.

"I turn the globe to Iraq. My country is small compared to most. Will it exist after the world stops bombing us? Will it take the destruction of my country 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
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.
Allyson Bogie
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I chose this book because I was so intrigued by the title--and I am really glad that I read it. It started with a moment that I experienced on my 11th birthday, the beginning of the Persian Gulf War. I experienced this from San Francisco, and I was so grateful to hear the perspective of someone who was experiencing it in the moment, instead. This book was sad, moving, engaging, and very interesting.
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
Owen Townend
The title piqued my interest then the subject matter. I have never come across a children's book about the Gulf War before but then it occurs to me that that time is now considered history.

I found reading about Ali's life intriguing mostly because it is a child's perspective of atrocity. Together Roy and Fadhil communicate unthinkable trauma in a way that young Westerners can identify with. Then again, I was personally never out of my comfort zone for too long.

I did find the video game reference
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
Beth Matsoukis
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was going to give it only 4 stars because “it’s a kids book”. But then I thought about it, no this is a 5 Star book. It’s a serious topic and you can feel all of the angst of war as it oozes in from the perspective of a child. School is indefinitely cancelled? Yay! We don’t have access to the food we like in the quantities we like? Boo! The story is jazzed up a bit for artistic license, but there is a real Ali Fadhil that lived through Desert Storm.
Elizabeth Meadows
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this because it's on the Sunshine State reading list for 2019-2020, but I put off reading it until almost the end of the list because I was a bit cautious of the subject matter. I need not have feared. It was a very good account of a young boy's life during the war in Iraq in 1991. I was in my 20s at that time in a fairly new career and was not paying close attention to world events. So I was happy to learn more about this event and enjoyed hearing about it through the eyes of someone who ...more
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a little kid myself when this took place and I learned a lot about the war from this book. Not much happened in the story but for middle grade, this is a good introduction to the subject matter.
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really Enjoyed this book. I was in college during Operation Desert Storm. I found it fascinating to see this time period from the viewpoint of a young boy living through the war. I work in a 4-5th grade elementary school, this would make a great read aloud to show students what it’s like to live through a war on your home soil during modern times. I found the title a bit misleading, but loved the references to Atari games I used to play.
This is the type of historical fiction I admire most. The characters reveal a plausible peek into the time and place. The main character does witness a public execution, so I hesitate to recommend this to my 5th grade students. I thought this had a lot of heart.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love how this book is so descriptive and so full of emotion. Based on a true story, four young siblings and their two parents are praying for their safety from war. Saddam Hussein, a true villain, has caused their country to be in this terrible war, but the Fadhill family stays as a pack, and readers can really appreciate how they are moving through this hard time.
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.
I liked this was a middle grade book about the first gulf war which I haven't see a lot about.
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