Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Game for Swallows review

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return

Book talk:  Zeina was born into a civil war, and it is still raging on.  Beirut is divided into the Christian East and the Muslim West, and Zeina lives in an apartment overlooking the demarcation line between them.  She is used to the sounds of shelling and the constant blackouts. This day is different though.  Her parents have gone out to visit her grandmother, and they haven't returned.  It's not far, and it should be an easy trip, but even the simplest trip can turn deadly when snipers  who fire at any civilians they see are stationed on the roofs of the buildings.  Her neighbors have gathered around to wait with her for her parents to return, and in the midst of tragedy they chat and laugh and live their lives.

Rocks my socks:  This comic isn't really about the war or the soldiers or the history behind it.  It's about regular people trying to live normal lives in extraordinary circumstances.  So many stories about war involve broad, sweeping narratives and flashy heroic deeds.  This is just about a small group of people spending an evening together.  But the war is inescapable.  It permeates every aspect of their lives in incredible ways.  At one point someone takes out their wedding photos and describes how everyone had to run to the church amid sniper fire.  I can't even begin to imagine what that must be like. Despite all this, they still do what they can to take care of each other and try to make each other laugh.  My favorite character, Ernest, has Cyrano de Bergerac (my favorite play!) memorized and performs bits of it for the children.  The panels for when Cyrano lists off different insults about his nose are beautifully designed and hilariously depict the different metaphors Cyrano employs.  The artwork is gorgeous throughout.  It's simple black and white drawings, but wonderfully creative and expressive.  The background of the panels is mostly pure black and whether it's to convey the blackout or the general atmosphere, it gives the comic a unique style.  It's easy to read about a war and its battles and soldiers and forget about the everyday people and the children who are constantly in fear, committing small acts of bravery all the time just by living.  I'm glad that Abirached shared their story and hers with us.

Rocks in my socks: none

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to fans of Persepolis.  I think that everyone could benefit from reading about what it's like to live in a war zone, and this comic is so wonderfully done that it's an enjoyable and touching read for anyone.  While it doesn't graphically depict much violence, there is a lot mentioned.  I'd save it for 6th grade and up.


Lerner and Scholastic have pages for the book

This video and article about how Beirut is recovering from the civil war is a nice, hopeful counterpart to the book:

Source: school library

A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached: buy it or check it out today!

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