Sami and the Time of the Troubles
by Heide, Florence Parry. Illustrated by Ted Lewin. (Clarion, 1992 ISBN 0 395 55964 2) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 3+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
This is the story of a likable boy and his family and the way they adapt to conditions and survive during the civil war in Lebanon. Sami tells us how, when the bombs are dropping and the fighting is active in his area, he and his family live in the basement of his uncle's house where the adults try valiantly to keep the family feeling safe and loved. They have brought their treasures with them into the dark basement: their carpets, a brass vase, anything to keep a memory of better times. When it is safe, everyone can go outside. Sami can find his friends again. Through the rubble, people shop, even have a wedding and life seems almost normal. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, the children play at war.
Contrasting dark and light color washes are used to contrast the sound and silence or night and day. While the medium of watercolor is usually associated with things bright, soft and lyrical, these illustrations represent powerful images with sharp contrasts.
Children as victims of war even when not directly in the line of battle are not unusual figures in children's literature but you seldom find such images in picture books. A less skilled author would have ended up with a "let's feel sorry for Sami" book, but instead she gives us a thoughtful, understated text which forces the reader to think about current warfare and its effects on the innocent.