Review Blog

Jan 29 2019

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a true story by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil

cover image

Oneworld Publications, 2018. ISBN 9781786074669.
(Age: Upper primary, Lower secondary) Recommended. An intriguing title, combining two seemingly unconnected topics. Ali is an eleven-year boy who lives in Iraq during 1991, a time when the country was bombed by the Americans. President Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait and the US and allies launch Operation Desert Storm to force him out. That means the people of Kuwait must experience the onslaught of the bombing raids, starvation and death.
All of this is seen and described through the eyes of Ali who lives with his brothers, sister and mother while his father is away serving as a medic.
Mixed up with the horrors of war, are the day to day survival strategies his family must practise such as taking shelter and surviving on meagre food supplies. He deals with problems with his brothers, bullies in the street as well as witnessing the horror of a public execution.
Ali loves his Superman comics, his Atari game, soccer and American shows (from which he has learnt English) and wants nothing more than his father to return safely and life to go back to normal.
This novel is based on a true story and Ali Fadhil, the joint author and protagonist of the story, eventually migrates to the USA after participating in the trial of Saddam Hussein as a young man.
This is a time in history that the young readers of this book may not know but it gives a child's eye look into the experiences of real people on the ground surviving war.
The cover has a pixelated Atari screen style of illustration showing Ali surrounded by bombs and soccer balls, wryly mimicking the comments made by Americans, calling the nightly bombings 'the video game war'.
I recommend this book to upper primary, lower secondary students.
Jane Moore

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