|Pic courtesy books.google.com|
Oranges in no man's land
Written by Elizabeth Laird
Illustrated by Gary Blythe
Published by Macmillan Children's Books
Ages 8-12 years.
10 yr old Ayesha lives with her mother, grandmother and two brothers in Civil war torn Beirut. Her mother gets killed by a bomb that also destroys their home, and they become refugees living in a shelter. Here Ayesha makes a friend, the deaf-mute girl her age, Samar. Life goes on, her grandmother their only parent.
Until one day, her grandmother becomes seriously ill. She has been ill for a long time now, and had medicines that she took for it, given to her by Dr Leila, for whom she had worked for many years. But now her medicines are over, and Dr Leila lives beyond the Green line, on the other side of the divide, beyond the 'no man's land' that lies between their portion of the city and hers.
So what is a mere 10 yr old to do? Does she manage to go to the good doctor and get medicines for her grandmother? How does she get past the armed solders gaurding the entrances to both sides and come back unscathed?
"I was used to danger. I'd heard countless bombs exploding, and I'd often gone to sleep to the sound of gunfire. But nothing had frightened me as much as that wild dash along the empty street. The world seemed to stand still, holding for breath, waiting for the men of death to open fire."
This is a touching story written by Elizabeth Laird, who lived in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War which stretched from 1975-1990. It is based on some real life events and experiences, as she writes in her preface to the book.
The sketch of Ayesha, running swiftly for all it's worth, looking furtively at something in the distance that she probably needs to be wary of, is a repeated motif throughout the book, at the title of each chapter. Done by Gary Blythe, (illustrator of other well known books like The Whale's Song, Rumer Godden's Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and Michael Morpurgo's I believe in Unicorns) they lend a sense of urgency to the books.
The story brings home to us the fact that there are both good and bad people on both sides of any divide, and the common man usually wishes for peace, not war, so that normal life can go on.