TASTING THE SKY

A PALESTINIAN CHILDHOOD

It’s the first night of the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Arab countries. Three-year-old Ibtisam, hunting frantically for a shoe, loses her family as they join the throng of anxious Palestinians fleeing Ramallah into Jordan. Desperate hours will elapse before the family is reunited. This beautifully written memoir of the author’s childhood on the Israeli-occupied West Bank unfolds against a harsh backdrop of war and cultural displacement. The family endures poverty, separations and frequent relocation. Yet life goes on, by turns surprising, funny, heartbreaking and rich with possibility. In an overcrowded Jordanian school-room housing refugees, Ibtisam discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arab alphabet, and a key unlocking the magical world of written words. Courageous and curious, but by no means always well-behaved, Ibtisam and her brothers find ways to assert their strong wills in defiance of the authorities that govern their lives. The injustices that rankle come at the hands of parents and teachers, not broader geopolitical realities. A compassionate, insightful family and cultural portrait. (map, historical note, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10+)

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-374-35733-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Melanie Kroupa/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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THE ARABIAN NIGHTS

In a large, handsome format, Tarnowska offers six tales plus an abbreviated version of the frame story, retold in formal but contemporary language and sandwiched between a note on the Nights’ place in her childhood in Lebanon and a page of glossary and source notes. Rather than preserve the traditional embedded structure and cliffhanger cutoffs, she keeps each story discrete and tones down the sex and violence. This structure begs the question of why Shahriyar lets Shahrazade [sic] live if she tells each evening’s tale complete, but it serves to simplify the reading for those who want just one tale at a time. Only the opener, “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” is likely to be familiar to young readers; in others a prince learns to control a flying “Ebony Horse” by “twiddling” its ears, contending djinn argue whether “Prince Kamar el Zaman [or] Princess Boudour” is the more beautiful (the prince wins) and in a Cinderella tale a “Diamond Anklet” subs for the glass slipper. Hénaff’s stylized scenes of domed cityscapes and turbaned figures add properly whimsical visual notes to this short but animated gathering. (Folktales. 10-12)

 

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84686-122-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Barefoot

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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A vivid mix of local color and tongue-in-cheek wit, albeit with loud sour notes.

HALF THE LIES YOU TELL ARE NOT TRUE

From a Labrador native, homespun “recitations” in equally homespun rhyme.

Written for oral performance (most are available as recordings) and easy to read aloud despite plenty of regional jargon, these 13 original yarns feature big dollops of wry humor. There’s fog thick enough to eat (“Mother used to dice it with pork fat and onions, / Or she’d mix it with mustard as a poultice for bunions”); the horrific consequences of trying to unclog a septic tank using a pump fitted with an old boat motor; and the experiences of a “Man of La Manche,” who is abducted not by aliens but Capt. Kirk, attempting to beam a moose up to the Enterprise. Recurring characters include 90-year-old “Super Nan,” who vanquishes a bullying polar bear at Bingo, and Uncle Jim Buckle. Paddon trips hard over the edges of good taste in “Berries,” a violent tale of a berry-picking war during which Jim takes a second wife, “a woman best described as Atilla the Hen,” after his first is killed by a land mine—but even that one comes to an uproarious climax, followed by an amicable resolution: “I guess blood’s…even thicker than jam.” It’s hard to tell from the small, roughly drawn figures in Major’s appropriately sober vignettes, but the (human) cast is likely all white. The glossary is extensive and essential for readers outside of Newfoundland and Labrador.

A vivid mix of local color and tongue-in-cheek wit, albeit with loud sour notes. (Verse tales. 11-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-927917-15-2

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Running the Goat

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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