Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book Review: Tasting the Sky

Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat. Grades 4 and up.

I read Ms. Barakat's gorgeous memoir as part of the Expanding Horizons Challenge. The bulk of this poetic book details her childhood in Israel, starting with the Six-Day War in 1967 when she was three and a half and ending in 1971. As a young girl, the author endured some horrifying events, such as being forced to flee her home and being separated from her family. I would venture to say that the majority of American children have not had to endure such things.

However, one of the things that really struck me about this book is that not all the memories are horrifying or even sad. Certainly life was not easy for the Barakats, living as refugees with soldiers marching by their house. But throughout it all, the family stuck together. There is a strong sense of family, even when they are forced from the place that they call home. Although Ibtisam endured hardships, she also was delighted to go to school and loved learning and writing. She played with her brothers and sister. There is a lot here that kids can relate to.

I think that's what makes this book such a strong starting-off point for discussions about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Ibtisam grew up in a world much different from one that many American children know, yet in many ways she was just the same as any other child.

In the historical note (I love authors' notes... and there is also a map... I love maps), Ms. Barakat says:

To learn more about the Middle East, and to deepen our understanding of both Palestinians and Israelis, it helps to share stories. Mine is one of many. Together, these stories can show us how all people are interdependent and have the same basic needs. Together, these stories may inspire us to join hearts and minds so that, with our collective wisdom, a solution for this conflict - and any other - is possible. (pg. x)

I cannot agree with these words more and I think Ms. Barakat has done an excellent job of sharing her story in an accessible way. (On a personal note, I identified with her from the beginning because she had pen pals... I had a great number of pen pals when I was a teenager, although I did not get detained by soldiers coming home from the mailbox...)

Tons of other bloggers have reviewed this title and rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm going to point you to the Fuse #8 review (part 1, part 2), which collects many of the reviews as well as information about the author, etc.

7 comments:

Melissa said...

Sounds fabulous. I'll definitely have to check this one out.

Amy said...

This sounds excellent. I have chosen to read about the middle east for this challenge as I find that area very interesting. I will definitely look for this book.

Becky said...

I enjoyed this book. For those looking to read more about the Middle East, I suggest Dawn and Dusk by Alice Mead (2007), Light Years by Tammar Stein, and Real Time by Pnina Moed Kass.

Sarah said...

This does sound great, and I'm adding it to my quickly growing TBR list. I'm glad to hear that the characters can find some good things in the midst of conflict.

Francesca (Scribacchina) said...

Have to find time for this one too. Thanks for presenting it.

softdrink said...

Possibly a stupid question, but is this a YA book? What ages would you recomend it for?

Abby said...

Not a stupid question... I would say grades 4 and up, but I definitely think it's something YAs could relate to. I think one of the strengths of this book is that although it deals with serious topics, it doesn't depict the war in all its gory details. So, while I think it could be appropriate for upper elementary (especially doing a unit on the Middle East or something like that), it will also have appeal for older kids. Incidentally, my library's got it shelved in the YA non-fiction. :)