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A Game for Swallows
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When Zeina was born, the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for six years, so it's just a normal part of life for her and her parents and her little brother. The city of Beirut is cut in two, separated by bricks and sandbags and threatened by snipers and shelling. East Beirut is for Christians, and West Beirut is for Muslims. When Zeina's parents don't return one afternoon from a visit to the other half of the city, and the bombing grows ever closer, the neighbours in her apartment house create a world indoors for Zeina and her brother where it's comfy and safe, where they can share cooking lessons and games and gossip. Together they try to make it through a dramatic day in the one place they hoped they would always be safehome. Zeina Abirached, born into a Lebanese Christian family in 1981, has collected her childhood recollections of Beirut in a warm story about the strength of family and community.
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In the tradition of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Lebanese author-artist Abirached offers readers a memory of her childhood in war-torn Beirut. Abirached and her brother are young children, separated from their parents during a particularly violent bombing. The violence brings all the people of Abirached's apartment complex together, however, and they spend hours together in the foyer, waiting for her parents' return. Abirached's b&w inks offer a stark contrast in hard, geometric patterns that make images at once abstract and fully representative of her childhood memories. The characters, despite their cartoonish nature, show a variety of emotions, and Abirached's gift for pacing makes tense moments appropriately full of anxiety. It is as often the space she leaves empty as the drawings themselves that tell the story-and each detail offered provides insight into the horrors of growing up in a war zone. A winner for young readers and adults alike. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)? (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Gr 5 Up-Zeina and her younger brother are growing up in Beirut, where civil war is a part of daily life. To protect against strikes and sniper fire, the family's living space has been reduced to the relative security of their apartment foyer, where a rug hanging on the wall, depicting Moses and the Hebrews fleeing Egypt, figures predominantly as a story background. This account chronicles one day in their lives, as the siblings await their parents' return and neighbors come and spend time with them, building an island of sanctuary for the children during this time of uncertainty. Bold, graphic, black-and-white images are visually and emotionally striking. Excellent use of maps and diagrams provides reference points and enhances understanding of spatial relationships. Unique panel placement includes several sequences of horizontal strips, read as columns. Images portray elapsed time, such as repeated smoking and countdown panels, and control pacing while revealing mounting tension. Excruciating wait time is depicted with cumulative "tic" and "toc" filling successive panels. Circular images of an embracing family contrast with the stark linear images of a war-torn country. Warmth and humor of daily life is shown in baking and storytelling, and wedding-dress close-ups touchingly highlight a mother's worry over soiling the hem, masking her worry over sniper fire. This superb memoir is destined to become a classic.-Babara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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