Monday, February 18, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached

Nonfiction Monday is a weekly meme in the Kidlitosphere that invites bloggers to read and review a nonfiction book on Monday as a way to promote high-quality nonfiction titles.  Each week, a different blogger "hosts" Nonfiction Monday and provides a roundup of all the posts.  This week Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Wrapped in Foil!

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached

Zeina Abirached was born and grew up in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1980s, during the country's civil war.  Windows were barricaded, sandbags were piled up in the streets, and everyone tried to stay inside, away from snipers and bombings.  A Game for Swallows focuses on one night of Zeina's childhood, when her parents went to visit her grandmother.  As their absence grows longer and longer, neighbors come by to eat, drink, talk and keep things as normal as possible.

When I first came upon A Game for Swallows on a display at the public library I saw the cover illustration and color scheme and thought "Oh, another title by Marjane Satrapi!" You'll forgive my ignorance, I hope.  As I came closer and read the title I realized that this was in fact, one of this year's Batchelder Honor books.  How lucky for me that no one had it checked out.  As I read, the black markered illustration style and theme of a childhood marred by war and violence continued to remind me of Satrapi's Persepolis, even though the meat of the story is distinctly different.  By focusing on just a few hours of one evening, Abirached's graphic novel encapsulates all of the fears and dangers of living in war-torn Beirut.  By focusing on just those few hours, though, she is also able to encapsulate the importance how friends and family can make such trying times not just bearable, but able to be remembered fondly.  The tension as they await the return of their parents is real and palpable.  And so are the bonds of friendship that have been strengthened and tested as the building residents come together to be there for one another.  Simply drawn.  Beautifully told.  Moving. Personal.

Recommended for 7th grade and older.

A Game for Swallows is a 2013 Batchelder Honor book.  

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  1. I've got this one on order. Can't wait for it to arrive!
    Apples with Many Seeds

  2. I just placed a hold on this one. I was happy to see that my library owns a few copies. If anyone is interested, here's the link to the Batchelder Award winners,

  3. Lovely review. I linked to it in my own.