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A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return (Single Titles) Paperback – August 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up-Zeina and her younger brother are growing up in Beirut, where civil war is a part of daily life. To protect against strikes and sniper fire, the family's living space has been reduced to the relative security of their apartment foyer, where a rug hanging on the wall, depicting Moses and the Hebrews fleeing Egypt, figures predominantly as a story background. This account chronicles one day in their lives, as the siblings await their parents' return and neighbors come and spend time with them, building an island of sanctuary for the children during this time of uncertainty. Bold, graphic, black-and-white images are visually and emotionally striking. Excellent use of maps and diagrams provides reference points and enhances understanding of spatial relationships. Unique panel placement includes several sequences of horizontal strips, read as columns. Images portray elapsed time, such as repeated smoking and countdown panels, and control pacing while revealing mounting tension. Excruciating wait time is depicted with cumulative "tic" and "toc" filling successive panels. Circular images of an embracing family contrast with the stark linear images of a war-torn country. Warmth and humor of daily life is shown in baking and storytelling, and wedding-dress close-ups touchingly highlight a mother's worry over soiling the hem, masking her worry over sniper fire. This superb memoir is destined to become a classic.-Babara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

About the Author

Zeina Abirached, born into a Lebanese Christian family in 1981, has collected her childhood memories of Beirut in a warm story about the strength of family and community.
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Product Details

  • Series: Single Titles
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Graphic Universe (August 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157505941X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1575059419
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laura Booksnob on June 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
Zeina was born during the Lebanon Civil War in 1981. The Civil War lasted from 1975-1990 and it divided the city of Beirut into East and West with the Christians living on the East side and the Muslims on the West side of the demarcation line.

In a Game for Swallows Zeina writes and draws about one particularly memorable day when she was little and living in an apartment near the demarcation line. The streets were lined with metal barrels, with walls of sandbags and cinder blocks to act as shields from sniper bullets. Zeina's parents regularly traveled the dangerous streets to visit her grandmother who lived a few blocks away.

Zeina, with her parents and little brother lived in a apartment in East Beirut. The only room they used in the apartment was the foyer because it was the safest place. They slept there, ate there and entertained other apartment dwellers there. There is a taxi driver, a newly married couple with a pregnant wife waiting for their papers to emigrate to Canada, the old nanny, and a whole host of other interesting apartment dwellers. Many of whom had suffered losses of family members and property.

A Game for Swallows is told in stark black and white artwork. Each detail is so fine as the story is told minute by minute, hour by hour. The facial expressions change in increments as Abirached captures wartime. The reader learns what it is like to live in a war zone from a child's perspective. No where to play, fearful for your family and scared of loud noises. Living life in a tiny space called home that is filled with love and support from everyone in their apartment building.

I am always looking for graphic novels that have historical significance and take place in far away places.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Symington on December 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
I rarely ever go directly from finishing a book to write a review, but I was so incredibly moved by this short book that I find myself compelled to TRY and put into words what effect it had on me. Sadly, I don't think anything I can say could do justice to it. The simplicity of the format belies the content, carefully drawn black and white illustrations (it appears at first glance to be a colorless comic book) with conversational text as well as explanation in the margins that tie it all together. It's a work of art but so much more than words can say. My first child was born the same year as the author/artist but under such completely different circumstances as to border on the absurd. How can this world be so different for some, why must anyone grow up in a place racked with nightly bombing raids, and how did this gifted young woman come up with such a creative and profound testament to her childhood? This is a brilliant work, accessible to all, easy to read but hard to absorb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jnanama Ishaya on January 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This graphic novel allows us to reach across the gulf that separates our safe western lifestyles from the terrors of ordinary people trapped in a war zone, to witness families surviving against all odds, and the depth of friendships that grow in such desperate circumstances... It would be an excellent addition to any library, school or public.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Don D. Bouchard on June 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Told from a child's point of view, this story blends humor and sadness and love to show how family and friends live in terrible times. Symbolically, when a family chandelier is shattered, everyone knows it's time to move on. Still, the family survives. Must read.
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By Kayla on October 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
This graphic novel was very interesting! It taught me about a point of history that I’ve honestly never heard of before and need to learn more about. It isn’t like history classes are fixating on places like Lebanon, even if those conflicts could certainly be learned from. I’m glad that there are writers out there telling these stories so that people like me can learn a little and then be intrigued enough to research it further.

I think what’s most interesting and confusing about the novel is that Zeina and her brother are presented as the main characters but they’re hardly in the book. They’re simply observers as the adults talk politics, worry about the coming bombs, and wonder why Zeina’s parents haven’t arrived home yet. While I really liked how most of the book was situated in the space of one day, giving a snapshot of life underneath this oppressive war, I think knowing more about the family dynamics would have been an improvement. It would have also been nice to see, perhaps in flashback, more about Zeina and her past as it relates to her perception of the terrible present.

The art was a little unconventional but I think that it worked for the book. It wasn’t my favorite style but I could certainly appreciate its presence in the narrative as it added a lot to the story.

I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy graphic memoir or are interested in historical accounts. It’s a quick read so even if you’re wanting to read something out of your typical genre, you could pick it up and sample it quickly.
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A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return (Single Titles)
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