In 2016, eight-year-old Bana Alabed starting using Twitter to tell the world about what was happening to her family under siege in Aleppo, Syria. This book is her story about what happened to her and her family.
Originally I presumed this was a children’s book, but with the intense situations and colour photographs showing the brutal consequences of war, this is not one I would recommend for a young audience. Interspersed with letters to Bana written by Fatemah, her mother, Bana tells of her best friend dying, her home being specifically targeted by bombers and the arrival of her new baby brother against a backdrop of destruction and fear.
As a parent to an eight-year-old myself, I found this account absolutely heartbreaking and in places, difficult to read. In one of her letters, Fatemah says she now laughs about worrying about whether Bana was eating too many sweets: “What I wouldn’t have given for those to have remained my greatest concerns. To worry about what you ate, and not whether you would even have any food to eat”. Arguing about sweets is a regular occurrence in our house and this really put the situation into perspective for me.
With colour photographs accompanying the text, this book is very vivid, offering a child’s perspective on the horrors of living through war: destruction, violence and death. A reminder that war does not just touch the lives of adults, but that children too are caught up in the fighting. For anyone questioning why refugees are leaving, hand them a copy of this book and ask them if they would stay. Had this been written by an adult, it would be a powerful testimony. The fact it is written by a child makes it even more so.
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