Sami and the Time of the Troubles


A ten-year-old Lebanese boy balances his life in a war-torn city.

A ten-year-old Lebanese boy goes to school, helps his mother with chores, plays with his friends, and lives with his family in a basement shelter when bombings occur and fighting begins on his street.

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A ten-year-old Lebanese boy balances his life in a war-torn city.

A ten-year-old Lebanese boy goes to school, helps his mother with chores, plays with his friends, and lives with his family in a basement shelter when bombings occur and fighting begins on his street.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An outstanding book." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers

"Lewin's watercolor illustrations capture contemporary Beirut with stunning clarity and drama . . . Unforgettable." School Library Journal, Starred

"A child caught up in the terror of wartime: that's the subject of this compelling picture book. . . . This may be Lewin's best work yet. Against both the shadows and the brilliantly colored patterns, the portraits of Sami and his family are lit with beauty." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With a child's frankness, Sami tells of life in war-torn Beirut--an existence spent between the relative safety of Grandfather's cellar hearing gunshots and falling bombs, and brief sojourns into the city's rubble to experience life above ground. Sami's poignant and appealing narrative is imbued with a wisdom far beyond his years. Left fatherless by a bomb blast, he has boyish yearnings to play at soldiers and build a sandcastle, but these are tempered by ever-present reality. He understands that the future depends on his generation, and the text picks up moments of relaxation--the discovery of a luscious peach on sale, memories of a day at the beach. Lewin's brooding watercolors dramatically depict the contrast between cellar-bound days and rare moments of eye-squinting sunshine. And while his studies do not portray the worst horrors of living in a war zone, they exude a brave optimism. This uncommon picture book, valuable for its portrait of children caught in modern-day conflicts, is sure to lead to thought-provoking discussions. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
Ten-year-old Sami tells the story of his life growing up in war torn Lebanon. Some or his days are good, especially when he and his family can go outside to the market or to play in the streets. Unfortunately, most of his days are bad because Sami and his family must hide in a small basement as a war is fought above them. A moving story illustrated with lovely watercolor paintings of Sami's troubled life in Lebanon.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3 Sami is a ten-year-old Lebanese boy whose everyday life is marred by gunfire and bombs. When things are good, Sami and his family can be outside, and he can play like other children, but during the bad times, they must hide in his uncle's basement. The male narrator's slightly accented voice captures the straightforward tone of Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heidi Gilliland's text (HM, 1992), reflecting Sami's character as a boy who laments his situation while knowing no other. Middle Eastern music in the background provides an authentic feel, but more authentic still is the child's-eye view of the ruined city, as Sami and his friend mourn the loss of their play fort and help clean up after an attack. The story ends on a note of hope as Sami dreams of establishing another "day of the children," when the youngsters of the city will march through the streets, demanding an end to the fighting. -Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Maryland School for the Deaf, Columbia Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-- Ten-year-old Sami lives in Beirut, Lebanon. Because of gunfire and bombing in the streets, he and his family spend much of their time in the basement of an uncle's house. There they listen to the radio or stare at the carpets Sami's mother insisted on bringing along as reminders of a normal life. When there is a lull in the fighting, the boy enjoys a day at the beach or meets with a friend to make a fort and play at war. ```When we are older, we will have real guns,''' says Amir. Sami disagrees. ```The fighting will be over then. It cannot last forever.''' At the story's end, Sami and his family are back underground listening as the ``noises of the night'' begin. As in The Day of Ahmed's Secret (Lothrop, 1990), three marvelously talented collaborators offer a powerful, poignant book. Heide and Gilliland's lyrically written, haunting story makes clear that war threatens not only physical existence but affects the human spirit as well. Lewin's watercolor illustrations capture contemporary Beirut with stunning clarity and drama. A bridal party walks through the rubble of a bombed-out street, old men drink coffee and smoke water-pipes, a blue sky startles with its brilliance. And Sami--surrounded by the carpets whose muted colors suggest a glimmering of hope--waits in the black cave of a basement. Unforgettable. --Ellen D. Warwick, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395720851
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 433,590
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Lewin grew up in Buffalo, New York, with two brothers, one sister, two parents, a lion, an iguana, and a chimpanzee. He became interested in art as a young boy when he would draw his brothers' world of wrestling. Ted later worked as a professional wrestler to finance his studies at the Pratt Institute of Fine Arts, where he met his wife, Betsy Lewin, also a children's book writer and illustrator. He and his wife travel around the world to research the settings for their books. While working on SACRED RIVER, which he both wrote and illustrated, Ted joined thousands of Hindus on their pilgrimage to the banks of the Ganges River in Benares, India. Ted now lives and works in the brownstone he shares with his wife and their two cats in Brooklyn, New York. For more information visit
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