It is a time of guns and bombs. It is a time that has lasted all my life, and I am ten years old."" So Sami begins his picture of life in contemporary Beirut, where he lives with his widowed mother, his grandfather, and his little sister in a basement lined with glowing carpets that are a poignant reminder of how beautiful life once was. Sami remembers picnicking at the beach once; he listens to his grandfather's stories and to the bombs; finally, on a rare, quiet day when the radio says it's safe, the family ventures out. The fort Sami built with friend Amir is gone, but, miraculously, there is fresh food to buy, even a wedding to observe. Sami and Amir play a war game, but also remember ""the day of the children,"" a long-ago demonstration against the fighting; now Sami understands his grandfather's unspoken hope that the next generation will be wiser. Vividly evoking Sami's strife-torn world, the gracefully understated text is stunningly illustrated in broad double-spread watercolors. Lewin's characterizations are sensitive and compelling; his lovely, dark interiors bespeak the characters' continuing courage and grief, while outdoor scenes dramatize life persisting amid the destruction. An outstanding book that, fortunately, is already somewhat out of date; an explanatory note would have been useful to young readers trying to put this in context.