A Stone in My Hand [NOOK Book]


The year is 1988 in Gaza City, and it has been a month since eleven-year-old Malaak's father left to seek work in Israel, only to disappear. Every day Malaak climbs to the roof and waits, speaking little to anyone, preferring the company of the little bird she has tamed. But her twelve-year-old brother, Hamid, has a different way of coping. He feels only anger, stoked by extremists who say violence is the only way to change their fate. Malaak's mother begs him to stay away from harm, but Malaak lives in fear of ...
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A Stone in My Hand

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The year is 1988 in Gaza City, and it has been a month since eleven-year-old Malaak's father left to seek work in Israel, only to disappear. Every day Malaak climbs to the roof and waits, speaking little to anyone, preferring the company of the little bird she has tamed. But her twelve-year-old brother, Hamid, has a different way of coping. He feels only anger, stoked by extremists who say violence is the only way to change their fate. Malaak's mother begs him to stay away from harm, but Malaak lives in fear of losing her brother as well. What will it take for her to find her voice-and the strength to move past the violence that surrounds her?

Living in Gaza City in the late 1980's, eleven-year-old Malaak and her family are touched by the increasing violence between Israelis and Palestinians when first her father disappears and then her older brother is drawn to the Islamic Jihad.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
PW said in a starred review of this novel set in a Palestinian community in Gaza City during the intifada of 1988 and 1989, "The harsh portrayal of the Israeli occupation will be painful for many readers, but the author's overall message is transcendently humane." Ages 11-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This book presents an atypical coming-of-age story. Its central character, a young Palestinian girl named Malaak, lives in an almost silent world occupied by her mother and siblings, along with a small bird named Abdo that appeared shortly after Malaak's father disappeared. She is convinced that her father sent Abdo to her for companionship, and in fact, he provides the one pathway to the naïveté and imaginative daydreaming that saturates the lives of most eleven-year-olds. Her brother, just one year older and a stone fighter, involves the family in the continuing saga of violent conflict between Palestinian rebels and Israeli soldiers. Despite their youth, both Malaak and her brother have little innocence left, and the story concludes on a hopeful but far from uplifting note. The content and subject matter are difficult to present to early teens, but Clinton does an admirable job of keeping it simple without dumbing it down. The writing style, however, is uninviting and seems to imitate a foreigner's halting English. The story is haunting, but ghostlike meandering seems to be the order of the day as the plot wanders toward its inevitable conclusion without much to draw the reader into the story. Overall, it would be a valuable addition to help young readers sympathize with the Palestinian conflict, but as a simple story there is not much to recommend it. One helpful addition, however, is the glossary of Arabic terms found at the end of the book. Glossary. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Candlewick, 208p,
— HollyNichols
Children's Literature
Here is a book that will have American child readers thinking about "others"—others whom they may have considered enemies, perhaps thought about as "less than" themselves, even less than human. Malak is eleven, living in Gaza City with her mother, older brother, and younger sister. Their father left to look for work in Israel and has disappeared. Every day Malak climbs up to the roof, cares for the doves, and imagines flying over the city to Jerusalem, where she would surely find her father. As she becomes more withdrawn, her brother becomes more active in the outside world. Caught up with a radical terrorist gang, he is in constant danger, but no one seems to notice. Malak's family is falling apart—how will the story end? Not happily, that's for sure. An unusual book, it is very moving in its realistic picture of a society at the opposite side of life. 2002, Candlewick,
— Judy Silverman
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-A moving story of courage, loss, personal growth, and familial love, set in 1988 in the Middle East. A month earlier, Malaak Abed Atieh's father left their home in Gaza City and never returned. Every day, the 11-year-old climbs up to her roof and waits for him, for she does not know that the bus he was on became a terrorist target. Since his disappearance, she hasn't spoken to anyone except her dove, a gift from him. Her mother finally tells her what happened, and the child begins to worry about her 12-year-old brother, whom she fears is becoming involved with a radical group. For his sake, Malaak comes out of her shell to try to save him from the growing violence that surrounds them. Malaak is a strong character who longs for her father's physical presence but finds solace and comfort when communicating with him on a spiritual level. Events move quickly and consistently throughout the story, and all of the characters are well drawn. With a sharp eye for nuances of culture and the political situation in the Middle East, Clinton has created a rich, colorful cast of characters and created an emotionally charged novel. The glossary of Arabic words and their English meanings is helpful.-Janet Gillen, Great Neck Public Library, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Someday I may fly away for good, but for now I watch and wait." Malaak Abed Atieh, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl lives in Gaza, spending her free time on the roof with her birds. Her father has disappeared, her brother Hamid wants to be a fighter with the militant extremists, and older sister Hend thinks of marriage, but, as mother says, "How can we have wedding celebrations when there have been so many funerals?" Dreams of peace and threats of war are symbolized by the birds on Malaak’s roof and the stones in Hamid’s hand. As the tensions between Palestinians and Israelis escalate and Hamid edges closer to the violence of the intifada, Malaak knows she can no longer dream her days away on her rooftop sanctuary. Her mother tells her that her father, along with other Palestinians and Israelis, has died in a bus bombed by an Arab terrorist. Malaak must do what she can to steer Hamid away from a similar fate. Father believed in a Palestinian homeland but not in terrorism, yet he was killed by Islamic Jihad; Hamid’s friends have been killed by Israeli soldiers. And mother cries, "No son of mine will ever be a member of Islamic Jihad." The complexities of the situation—of families wanting peace, of dreams of a place to call home, and the allure of militant groups to fighters such as Hamid—are woven into this powerful portrayal told in spare, poetic prose. Clinton takes her readers seriously and presents history and politics in an engaging, human story of one young girl and her family. There are no neat resolutions here, only a fully realized account, told with compassion and hope. The beautiful writing and timely subject warrant a wide audience for this must-read. (author’s note,glossary) (Fiction. 11+)
From the Publisher
"With a sharp eye for nuances of culture and the political situation in the Middle East, Clinton has created an emotionally charged novel." — School Library Journal - Starred review

"This book's compassion and insight can only help us all."
— Naomi Shihab Nye, poet and author of HABIBI — Quote

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763656393
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 8/9/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 487,197
  • Lexile: 540L (what's this?)
  • File size: 873 KB

Meet the Author

Cathryn Clinton received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa and her master of fine arts degree from Vermont College. Her first novel, THE CALLING, was published in 2001. AboutA STONE IN MY HAND she says, "While in graduate school in 1998 I had a writing assignment: choose a picture of someone and write about that person. In an article about Gaza in National Geographic, I saw a picture of a young Palestinian girl holding a bird in her hand. There was a look of strength in her face. This intrigued me, and I wondered how this girl had survived both internally and externally when the conditions of her growing up years were so harsh. So I sat down and began writing the story of Malaak."
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Read an Excerpt

The Roof

I am Malaak Abed Atieh, and this bird is Abdo. Abdo lives here on the roof. I sneak him seeds when no one is watching. My sister lives in the smell of the stove with my mother, like the other girls I know, but I do not. I live in Abdo's eyes. I see things my sister and brother will never see. I fly high, high above Gaza City. I soar out of the Gaza Strip. Nothing stops me, not the concrete and razor wire, not the guns, not the soldiers. I stare at them with my hard black Abdo eyes, and they do not shoot me. I am hidden. I laugh at them, but they don't hear it in the sound of the bird. My wings are strong. I dip and dive, stretching these wings, but then I come back to the roof and fold them under me. Someday I may fly away for good, but for now I watch and wait.

My brother, Hamid, is cocky. He always argues with my sister, me, my mother, everyone. I think that when he was born, his mouth was wide open yelling and his hands were in little fists. Yesterday he and Tariq, his best friend, left to play soccer. I followed Hamid. He is easy to follow because his wiry hair sticks out all over and he walks with a strut, like Abdo. They were only halfway down the street when an Israeli soldier appeared at the corner. They ducked into an alley, then came back out with stones in their hands. They shouted at the soldier and ran toward him. They lifted their arms to throw the stones.

I gasped. They could be arrested for that, beaten even. But the soldier lifted his gun over his head, holding it with two hands, and yelled. Hamid yipped and turned and ran into Tariq. Tariq fell over, twisting his ankle under him. Hamid kept right on running. The soldier started laughing.
I helped Tariq limp home. He stared, unblinking, with his stone eyes. He winced with pain, but he didn't speak to me. I didn't speak to him. We are alike in this: we both speak very little.

Hamid brags about being one of the shabab; he thinks this makes him a youth fighter in the intifada, which was started by the people of Gaza a little over a year ago.

Last night, he said to my sister, "The young men of Gaza are tired of standing by the road, hoping for a day's job. Waiting, waiting for some Israeli to come up and check our muscles and stare into our eyes. We are not animals. We are shabab."

Hamid shakes his fist as he speaks. I just stare at him. He must have heard those words from someone else.

"We are fighters. The stones speak. The soldiers will have to listen." The brave Hamid who left his friend alone in the street. For now, Hamid's biggest fist is in his mouth.

My sister, Hend, looks like my mother. Deep dark eyes, thick straight hair, straight nose, and straight teeth. She is pretty. I'm not. My nose is too big, like someone punched it in. Probably Hamid did. One front tooth overlaps the other. I don't have straight anything. And my wavy hair flies around my face.

Hend thinks of marriage, and little-beard boy-men. A few months ago when we were on the way to the market, she said, "I will have a wedding bigger than any you have seen."

I laughed. "When, Hend?"

"When the intifada is over; you wait and see," she said. Since the intifada started, there haven't been wedding celebrations in Gaza. How can we have wedding celebrations, my mother says, when there have been so many funerals?

Hamid says, "Will you be rich, Hend?"

"When this trouble is over, this uprising, we'll have the money. You wait and see," she replies. Hend, the wait-and-see girl.

Hamid laughs and laughs. Hend's breath escapes in a hiss. "Why do I even bother to tell you anything? What do either of you know? You are just foolish children."

Who is foolish? I am a girl, but I do not hope for men. I do not wait for weddings. I am not content with cooking and sighs. I go to the roof. I live in Abdo's eyes. I see things my sister and brother will never see. I live in the sky.

"Malaak, come down." I pretend that I do not hear my mother's voice. "Malaak, I know you are there." She will come up on the roof if I am quiet. Her thump, thump climbs to me.

She sits beside me, arm around my shoulder. Her eyes become full. Full of salty water like the sea. The Dead Sea. I do not look into them. Instead I kiss the salt on her cheeks. We are sitting in the same place where we sat a month ago when we watched my father walk away.

That day, he was going to look for mechanic work in Israel because he had just lost his job. The garage owner said there were not many cars in Gaza to fix anymore because so many wealthy families had emigrated to other places since the intifada. But my mother works too, and they're saving money to buy a taxi.

Right before the corner, Father turned around and gave me the signal. He shot his fist into the air with his thumb pointed up. This sign means "I am winning." Then he yelled, "See you there in the evening."

I laughed. This meant that even a job in Israel wouldn't change our game. Ever since I was little, I would wait on the roof for my father to come home from work. When I saw him at the corner, I'd make the I-am-winning sign. Then I'd run down the roof stairs on the back outside wall of the house, and in through the kitchen door. Father would race through the street. Whoever got to the front door first was the winner. Usually I won.
That day, my mother and I stared until we saw him no longer. We have not seen him since.

A STONE IN MY HAND by Cathryn Clinton. Copyright (c) 2004 by Cathryn Clinton. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2008


    i had to read this book for school in western civ, and i found it very boring and simple. It did have a good plot, and a good idea, but the writing style was too boring. I'm normally an avid reader and love almost all books, but this book disappointed me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2007

    I Loved It...

    It's an amazing Book. I never got to finish it though. I should have. It's a sad story. I most definately recommend this book to any one. Young and old readers. =]

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2004

    The Truth

    This book takes place in Gaza during the intifada of 1988 and its about this Palestine girl named Malaak who has been tramatized by her father's murder by a terrorist group. She trys to survive in the midst of a war with her mother, sister and brother.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2004

    You must read this!!!

    This book is a way for young readers to learn about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through a child's eye. It's such a beautiful & deep book. I recommend this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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