This book is hard to read, it hurts the heart, it doesn’t let you claim ignorance regarding the plight of Palestinians, and it shows cruelty, a specific inexcusable cruelty, in a children’s book that will haunt you and infuriate you for weeks and months, if not indefinitely. I’ve read a number of Palestine set books, but this one, in its simplicity, leaves me raw. A child with a rooftop garden that helps feed her family is deliberately targeted by Israeli drones and destroyed. This isn’t science fiction or dystopian, this is based on real acts. The book itself threads in themes of hope, of not giving up, of remembering strength of a lost parent, of vowing to move forwards, but the catalyst for it all is not happenstance, and while the details of the occupation and oppression are not stressed and articulated, they are referenced and skillfully present to be discussed with children on their level with the included backmatter at the end. This book is powerful and should be required reading. It is a difficult read and it has flags, but it is also a glimpse of the reality of our world, and the manner in which this book is told allows for the discussion to taken place with middle grade readers and up. The book is not text heavy, but the nature of the content makes me suggest it for mature children.
Noura, a young girl, is in her home in Gaza when drones are seen just out the window and she quickly pulls her little brother Esam away to safety. To distract him she tells him about their father and his farm that he used to have in Umm An-Naser. She explains how the wall cut them off from their land and when the drone noises fade, she takes him up to her rooftop garden to pick green beans. Their mama works downstairs as a seamstress, and while they wish they had meat, the garden helps them have fresh vegetables.
The next day after Noura gets her little brother ready for the day they head to the roof, but drones arrive and start spraying chemicals on the growing plants, killing them, and sending Noura gasping to breathe. She tries to cover the plants and swing a shovel at the drone, but it does little to save any of the food and Noura is devastated.
Noura’s mama reassures her daughter that the food can be regrown, but she is irreplaceable, as Noura goes to scrub the chemicals from her skin. The frustration is real, but determination prevails as the family cleans the garden and begins again, just as their father did.
The last two page spread of the book is a basic map, general touchstones of the situation in Palestine, and the very real drones that fly in to Gaza to surveil, attack, and spray herbicides on crops. You can purchase a copy on the publisher’s website or HERE at Crescent Moon Store.