Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A Palestinian boy comes to terms with his younger brother's death in this slow-paced but moving novel originally published in Hebrew in 1994. In homage to the bravery of his brother Fadi, who was killed by an Israeli soldier, Samir shatters his kneebone in a daredevil bicycle feat. Consequently, he must undergo a special operation at the "Jews' hospital." Samir's fever plus the sealing off of territories keeps the boy hospitalized for several weeks in a ward with four Israeli children, including Yonatan, a boy with a hand in an "iron contraption" and a head in the clouds. The author simultaneously and effectively sketches the understated friendship that develops between the pair ("Together we're two boys with three legs and three hands," says Yonatan) and uses flashbacks to reveal the details of Samir's life in the occupied West Bank, including the effect of his brother's death on his family. Some readers may find the book's climax troubling: Samir, while playing a computer game with Yonatan in which he creates a new planet where "everything is possible," comes to believe that Fadi died because "he didn't have anything to carry on with." However, the book's understated tone and detailed character development prevent its message from becoming obvious or heavyhanded. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
SAMIR AND YONATAN Daniella Carmi. "A Palestinian boy comes to terms with his younger brother's death by an Israeli soldier in this slow-paced but affecting novel originally published in Hebrew in 1994," said PW. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
After an accident on his bike, Samir, a young Palestinian boy, is sent to a Jewish hospital to await the arrival of an American surgeon who will repair his leg. At first, surrounded by Jewish patients and staff, Samir feels isolated and resolves not to speak. But then, after lights out, Yontan, the boy in the bed next to his, begins talking to him about the stars and planets and distant worlds, "...worlds made of ice and gases and rocks and red sands and black oceans, worlds surrounded by marvelous colorful rings, glittering like gems." Worlds that hold the possibility of a way of life that is different—one without illness and limitations and war. Slowly, with the help of Yonatan's friendship, Samir begins to enter into the rhythms of his new environment. Interspersed with these conversations are Samir's memories of his life back at home. He thinks about his brother Fadi's death and wonders if he was at fault because he ran faster. He questions his father's ability to love him after this loss. And he compares Yonatan to his friend Adnan—two boys who tell fantastic tales—and comes to prefer Yonatan's gentleness to Adnan's cruelty. And yet Samir's feeling of being different, of being in enemy territory, does not completely fade. The political and religious tensions between Jews and Arabs are played out in another patient's (Tzahi) antagonism towards Samir. When Tzahi offers to show the other children in their room the device that helps him urinate he excludes Samir. When he is not ignoring Samir he steals his food and taunts him with his brother's prowess as an Israeli paratrooper. And when Tzahi's brother comes to visit, Samir, spying the label on a box he is carrying, begins to wonder ifTzah's brother is the soldier that shot and killed Fadi. This thoughtful and well-written book would be a good starting point for discussion on the current situation in the Middle East. Its easy and flowing style makes it accessible to middle schoolers, while its topic makes it equally appropriate for older teens. An ALA Notable Book and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1994, Scholastic, 183p.,
Debra Mitts Smith
In this story of a young Palestinian boy who is given a special permit to go to an Israeli hospital for a knee operation, Samir is a bit of a loner. He feels that he does not fit in with his own familyespecially after a stray bullet kills his brother. Samir's parents and siblings are too busy dealing with their grief and the turmoil in their lives. Even his best friend, Adnan, is frustrated with Samir and the injury that prevents his playing soccer. Samir's roommates in the hospital are anorexic Ludmilla; Razia, who is recovering from a beating at the hands of her alcoholic father; and quiet and withdrawn Yonatan, who whispers nightly promises to Samir that the two will create their own imaginary perfect world in outer space. But it is loud, boisterous, showoff Tzahi who is the most compelling character. Tzahi is very proud of his soldier brother, whom Samir imagines fired the bullet that killed his brother Fadi. Despite their differences, this group heals together as Samir realizes that everyone struggles with conflict and with their families. Perhaps because this novel by an Israeli author is a translation, the language is sometimes simple and stilted. Although the book appears appropriate for a much younger audience, the emotions and issues are complex and more suited for middle school readers. Young teens will relate to Samir's feelings of being an outsider and will appreciate the message of peace that is the central theme of the book. This title received an honorable mention for the UNESCO prize for Children's Literature in the Service of Tolerance. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8).2000,Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, Ages 12 to 14, 192p, $15.95. Reviewer: Julie Roberts
Samir, a Palestinian boy from the West Bank, needs an operation on a shattered knee and must spend time in a Jewish hospital in a room with four Jewish childrenTsazi , Ludmilla, Razia, and Yonatan. Samir loves Ludmilla and privately says the three English sentences he knows as magic to break the spell he believes she is under, so she will awake and be well again. He is also drawn to Yonatan, who includes Samir in his quest for knowledge of the stars and planets and his computer-adventure game to Mars. He is afraid of Tsazi, however, and his soldier brother, but is later accepted in Tsazi's escapades. Students unfamiliar with the conflict in Palestine will still understand the feelings of Samir, terrified and alone in a room with four strangers. But the background information will help them understand Samir's life outside the hospitalthe curfew, the constant fear of being shot, his barber father no longer having customers, and his younger brother dead from a Jewish soldier's bullet. It is a story first of fear of the unknown, and then of tolerance and acceptance, as Samir learns to love these Jewish children as if they were his own siblings. 2000 (orig. 1994), Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, $15.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Janet L. Rose
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-Riding his bicycle down the market steps, a young Palestinian falls and smashes his knee so badly that he needs surgery. For the first time in his life, Samir leaves his home in the Occupied Territories to go to a Jewish hospital where an American doctor will operate on him. While waiting for the procedure, Samir gets to know the other children on his ward, all Jews. Beautiful Ludmilla is pining away for her home in Russia and refusing to eat. Razia hides under her bed in fear of her father. Hyperactive Tzahi can't urinate properly and, most importantly, Yonatan with the crippled arm introduces Samir to the stars, computer games, and the way imagination can take one away from a place of pain. As Samir thinks about the home he misses, details of his family life are revealed. Readers learn that his younger brother was killed, shot while playing in the street by a man wearing the same uniform that Tzahi's brother wears when he visits. His older brother has gone to Kuwait to earn money and his mother works two jobs. His father has stopped talking. As the hospitalized children spend time together, they come to support one another, forming a team that crosses cultural boundaries. Samir and Yonatan take an illegal night outing to commandeer an office computer to play a game. Life in the hospital is described as clearly as life in the Occupied Territories and readers will sympathize with Samir's fear and loneliness and welcome his new friendships. Written in Hebrew but published first in Germany, the book is smoothly translated and will have wide appeal.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From the Publisher
"A book that is worthy of attention. One almost hesitates to write that it is a children's book, because as an adult who is unacquainted with both societies from within you read the book and emerge equally enriched.... Carmi's artistic powers come to fore, enabling the reader to create his own imaginay dimension."
--Frankfurter Allgemein Zeitung (leading German newspaper)
"It is truly amazing how Israeli writer Daniella Carmi, who tells the story of Samir and Yonatan, succeeds in entering into the mentality of the Palestinian patient and reflecting it with such credibility.... Carmi's imagination is vital, allowing children's dreams to develop and fly to distant imaginative places."
"Samir, a Palestinian boy, finds himself in a Jewish hospital in Israel waiting for an American doctor to operate on his shattered knee. In this sharply observed novel Samir gets to know the four other children in the ward, and budding friendship alters his political views."
--New York Times Book Review:
"The title is recommended not only for its story, characterizations, and theme but also for its existence as young adult literature coming from outside the United States."