Randa Abdel-Fattah is the award-winning author of young adult novels Does My Head Look Big in This? and Ten Things I Hate About Me.
Gr 5-8-Physically and emotionally scarred, Hayaat lives behind the Israeli-built Separation Wall in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. When her beloved grandmother falls ill, the 13-year-old decides to make her way to Jerusalem to fill an empty hummus jar with soil from the land of her grandmother's ancestral home. She is certain that this will mend her heart. Unfortunately, although Jerusalem is merely minutes away, curfews, checkpoints, and an identity card that doesn't allow her to cross the border mean that Hayaat and her soccer-loving, troublemaker friend Samy face a perilous journey. This novel is an important addition to a very small body of existing books that tell the Palestinian story for young people, and an intensely realistic setting brings that story to life. It is full of humor, adventure, and family love, but doesn't try to hide the heartbreaking and often bitter reality of life under Occupation. Abdel-Fattah manages to walk the line of truth-telling and sensitivity. She has avoided vilifying Israelis and, in fact, Hayaat and Samy could not have completed their journey without the help of a Jewish Israeli couple sympathetic to their cause. A cast of quirky characters adds both humor and realism to the story, making the devastating circumstances more palatable to young readers and keeping the story light in spite of a heavy topic and some dark realizations as the plot moves forward.-Sharon Senser McKellar, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This suspenseful novel reveals the plight of Palestinians living in occupied territory, as 13-year-old Hayaat braves the journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, trying to fulfill the wish of her ailing grandmother, who dreams of touching the soil of her home once more. In her first middle-grade novel, Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big in This?) crafts a classic quest and adeptly sketches the strong friendship between Hayaat and her soccer-obsessed friend Samy, who accompanies her through checkpoints, and the memorable cast they encounter along the way, which includes a pair of Israeli peace activists. The rest of Hayaat's family anchor the narrative and prove equally compelling, including Hayaat's older sister, who is preparing for her wedding; her tenacious mother; and her depressed father. Clues to the disfiguring accident that scarred Hayaat and caused the death of her best friend build, illuminating a source of fear and sorrow. Still, Hayaat manages to hold onto hope: "Maybe it's not about survival. Maybe we have to learn how to live with purpose." The heroine's courage, warmth, and humor despite mounting challenges will win over readers. Ages 9-12. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Yet another thought-provoking offering from the author of Does My Head Look Big In This? This is a novel with many layers. Set in Palestine, it introduces us to the obstacles that Hayaat and her family cope with on a daily basis. The family olive grove has been confiscated to build a road, so the family, complete with grandmother, are now living in a small apartment. There is the normal family bickering and loving support; preparations for her sister's wedding, and dealing with the hassles of curfews and travel restrictions. As the story unfolds, we see that Hayaat is not insensible or immune to the undercurrents in her world. She spends quality time with her grandmother, enjoying her family stories and learning of the creation of the state of Israel. There is gentle humour with religious differences between the Muslim Hayaat, and her best friend, the Catholic Samy. There is also a running joke about the 'X Factor' television show, usually surfacing when least expected. Suitable for ages 12 and over, this book can't help but break down barriers. There is no racism or fanaticism, just people getting on with life, albeit much tougher lives than we are generally used to. Melinda Bilbey is a former bookseller and freelance reviewer