I’ve always believed that books have a way of finding their readers. And I am delighted that Miriam Halahmy’s A Boy from Baghdad found me. Although it is a children’s book meant for 10–12-year-olds, I am confident even adults are going to enjoy this. At least, I certainly did!
Salman Shasha, a twelve-year-old Iraqi Jew, is proud of his identity – he is a boy from Baghdad. A talented swimmer, he aspires to win a gold medal for Iraq at the Olympics. Sadly, his dreams are hindered, as Iraqi Jews are no longer welcome in Iraq. As per the government edict, they have to vacate the place that was once their home and find refuge in Israel, the promised land. After a tumultuous journey, Salman’s family finds their way to Israel, but only to discover that the new home is a refugee camp filled with hunger, distress, and disease. And to add to it, the European Jews mistreat the Arab Jews. Salman struggles to adjust and misses his home. But along with his street-smart cousin Latif, he learns to persevere, hope, and dream despite all odds.
Based partly on the author’s husband’s family, Halahmy’s storytelling transported me to the Baghdad and Israel in the 50s.
The narrative is skillfully driven by both character and plot. Salman and Latif’s optimism is infectious, and it is impossible to not fall in love with these adorable boys. The secondary characters are equally well-sketched and play their roles to perfection.
This heartbreaking story portrays the prejudice, racism, genocide, and displacement faced by Iraqi Jews. For readers unfamiliar with this chapter of history, this book is a valuable resource. Kudos to the author for striking the right balance of honesty and sensitivity.
Despite these serious themes, the narration encourages readers to remain hopeful, gain an understanding of the issues, and root for the people. This book can be a wonderful resource for children and adults to discuss this chapter from history.
A Boy from Baghdad will remain a treasured and memorable read forever.
Wordsopedia Rating 4.75/5
|Title: A Boy from Baghdad
|Author: Miriam Halahmy
|Publisher: Pen & Sword, Green Bean Books
|Publication date: 01 Oct 2023
|No. of Pages: 193
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About the author
Miriam Halahmy is a prolific writer who has written novels, short stories, and poetry for children, teens, and adults. Her books include The Emergency Zoo, Behind Closed Doors, Hidden, and Always Here for You. Miriam has worked with refugees in schools and in workshops in collaboration with PEN and the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, and frequently visits schools, colleges, universities, and literary festivals both virtually and in person, in the UK and abroad.