Ali’s hometown of Basra, Iraq, is near the border with Kuwait, which makes it a dangerous place to live in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm.
Eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil is a fan of American television and Superman comic books. He loves English class and playing football (soccer) with his friends. His Christian, Kurdish family’s affluent lifestyle is interrupted when a coalition of countries initiates military action to stop Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Because of the war, Ali’s father is away, bombs fall daily, and Ali sleeps in “the safe room” with his mother and siblings. The food supply is cut off, so the family depends on government rations once their own stores run out. When his older brother, Shirzad, is appointed head of the family in his father’s absence and his mother begins burning his precious comic collection for heat, Ali has nearly all he can handle. Based on co-author Fadhil’s own childhood, the novel reads somewhat like a journal, detailing scenes in the neighborhood and changes to daily life, but as is often the case with real life, it lacks a solid climax and resolution. While Ali’s voice and emotional life lack the vitality that would draw readers in to the story, the snapshot of his society at war is strong, and there are very few children’s books in English with Kurdish protagonists.
A well-researched piece of historical fiction, just a bit flat as a novel. (Historical fiction. 8-13)