Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein
At the start of 1991, eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family survived bombings, food shortages, and constant fear. Ali and his brothers played soccer on the abandoned streets of their Basra neighborhood, wondering when or if their medic father would return from the war front. Cinematic, accessible, and timely, this is the story of one ordinary kid’s view of life during war.

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein Details

TitlePlaying Atari with Saddam Hussein
Author
ReleaseFeb 6th, 2018
PublisherHMH Books for Young Readers
Rating
GenreChildrens, Middle Grade, Historical, Historical Fiction, War

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein Review

  • Elisabeth
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a big fan of realistic historical fiction and this book for middle school kids jumps right up there with my top favorites. I'm curious as to how much of this book is actually fiction and not fictionalized, but either way, I found it simply un-put-downable. I was in high school during the first Iraq war and I remember it fairly well. My friends and I were fascinated by it, in a naively idealistic, we-are-the-saviors-of-the-world kind of way. To read about the war from the perspective of a kid I'm a big fan of realistic historical fiction and this book for middle school kids jumps right up there with my top favorites. I'm curious as to how much of this book is actually fiction and not fictionalized, but either way, I found it simply un-put-downable. I was in high school during the first Iraq war and I remember it fairly well. My friends and I were fascinated by it, in a naively idealistic, we-are-the-saviors-of-the-world kind of way. To read about the war from the perspective of a kid who was just a few years younger than me at the time was mind blowing. Playing Atari is very well written with tons of intimate details about everyday life in Iraq, at least as everyday you can get during a war. I felt like Ali's thoughts, reactions, and feelings were incredibly genuine and will give kids reading the story a unique perspective on life in the Middle East. There are a few intense scenes, so this may not be appropriate for more immature middle schoolers.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    I had no idea what to expect with this book and ended up really enjoying it. I read it for the February #yabookchat discussion on Twitter. It tells the story of Ali Fadhil, the co-author of the book, who was a boy in Iraq during Desert Storm. This is his retelling of what it was like for those 40 days, and then his work as a translator during Saddam Hussein's trials later. My only drawback: it did read like a co-authored biographical work, meaning that some points were choppy/disjointed since it I had no idea what to expect with this book and ended up really enjoying it. I read it for the February #yabookchat discussion on Twitter. It tells the story of Ali Fadhil, the co-author of the book, who was a boy in Iraq during Desert Storm. This is his retelling of what it was like for those 40 days, and then his work as a translator during Saddam Hussein's trials later. My only drawback: it did read like a co-authored biographical work, meaning that some points were choppy/disjointed since it was a recounting of memories instead of being a completely fictionalized and stylized piece of literature. Overall, I would recommend this book to my students. I think it is a good piece of historical fiction, especially since it is about a time period that many of the popular historical fiction doesn't cover (i.e.-it's not a Holocaust/WWII book). For my students, 1991 is a LONG TIME AGO, even though it doesn't seem that way to me.
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  • Chance Lee
    January 1, 1970
    A cute map at the beginning taught me some geography, but this story isn't for me. I like books that weave the setting into the story. In this book, the setting is the story. The first two chapters are almost exclusively the narrator addressing the reader, telling us the context of the story. I wanted to read it long enough to see if the narrator thought his Atari game would save the initials he put into the high score board (it won't), but I couldn't.
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  • Scottsdale Public Library
    January 1, 1970
    I was close to the age of Jennifer Roy's protagonist during Operation Desert Storm, so it was interesting to experience the war from a young Iraqi's perspective. Based on events from Ali Fadhil's childhood, we meet Ali and his family in the city of Basra during the war: schools are closed, food is dispersed in rations, and citizens are just trying to make it through each day. Yet Ali and his friends are still kids, coming together to play ball, making a game of scavenging through war debris, and I was close to the age of Jennifer Roy's protagonist during Operation Desert Storm, so it was interesting to experience the war from a young Iraqi's perspective. Based on events from Ali Fadhil's childhood, we meet Ali and his family in the city of Basra during the war: schools are closed, food is dispersed in rations, and citizens are just trying to make it through each day. Yet Ali and his friends are still kids, coming together to play ball, making a game of scavenging through war debris, and dreaming of life shown on American TV shows. A life where they would be safe. In one passage, a newscaster describes how the bombings in Iraq show up in night vision cameras as glowing dots against greenish skies. I remember those scenes vividly being displayed during news segments, and being compared by some to video games. But from the perspective of those living in cities being bombed, the comparisons were insulting. This is a good book for young kids to read, to understand that fears and interests can be universal among different cultures. -Sara Z.
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  • Ms. Yingling
    January 1, 1970
    E ARC from Edelweiss Above the TreelineAli lives in Basra, Iraq in 1991 with his family, including brothers Ahmed and Shirzad and young sister Shireen. His mother is a math professor, his father is a dentist and army medic reservist, and the family lives a comfortable life complete with video games and American television programs. Ali has known war for much of his life, but when the US prepares to launch Dessert Storm attacks, he realizes how much more serious this war is. Since bridges have be E ARC from Edelweiss Above the TreelineAli lives in Basra, Iraq in 1991 with his family, including brothers Ahmed and Shirzad and young sister Shireen. His mother is a math professor, his father is a dentist and army medic reservist, and the family lives a comfortable life complete with video games and American television programs. Ali has known war for much of his life, but when the US prepares to launch Dessert Storm attacks, he realizes how much more serious this war is. Since bridges have been bombed, food is scarce. More buildings are destroyed and people are killed. Ali's father goes missing, and the family is worried for his safety. While Ali is not a fan of school, he would rather be there than huddled at home while war rages around him. When there are rumors that a ground strike will be made soon, Ali considers finding a way to let the US soldiers know that he loves Superman and video games, but realizes it will have little effect. In an epilogue, we see Ali working at a translator for the US government during Hussein's trial, and notes at the end explain the true story on which the book is based.Strengths: This was really well done-- first hand experiences from Mr. Fadhil, but told by an experienced middle grade writer so that the book is structured in an appealing and fast-paced way. I appreciated the inclusion of information about the different ethnic groups and their involvement, especially since Ali's father is Kurdish. There are plenty of details of ordinary life in Basra, and we get a lot of historical information about the war as well. Even the cover is fantastic. This is a great window into another time and place, and I can't wait to share it with my students!Weaknesses: Ms. Roy does not write nearly enough books! I love her Yellow Star, as well as the Trading Faces series she wrote with her twin, Julia DeVillers.What I really think: This seemed a bit pro-American, but there are some passages that describe how much Ali loves Iraq, just not the Iraq during war time. Now, I really need to see a book by an Iraqi who felt less positively about the US!
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  • Jen Naughton
    January 1, 1970
    I picked this up at ALA and read it then before passing it on to other reviewers. I ended up getting another digital copy and read it a second time before writing this review. I'm a big proponent of introducing American kids to what life is like around the world and now regret giving away my ARC of this title. I'll be buying it as I'm planning on including this in a World History/ Social Justice Homeschool Unit that we'll start either this Summer of next Fall. Anyhow, on with the review:This sto I picked this up at ALA and read it then before passing it on to other reviewers. I ended up getting another digital copy and read it a second time before writing this review. I'm a big proponent of introducing American kids to what life is like around the world and now regret giving away my ARC of this title. I'll be buying it as I'm planning on including this in a World History/ Social Justice Homeschool Unit that we'll start either this Summer of next Fall. Anyhow, on with the review:This story is quite the page-turner. It reads like a novel but, because it is a real story, there isn't any climax in the plot. It's 1991 and Ali and his family live in Iraq, and throughout the story, we see the First Gulf War through their eyes. At first, they treat the bombings as a sort of game. The family goes down into their shelter and plays Monopoly and has picnics. As time goes on Ali's father gets called into service and food, and other supplies run out forcing the family to receive rations from Saddam's army. Eventually, even his comic collection is used as a firestarter so that the family can cook. Almost this entire story is suitable for middle-grade readers except for one scene that describes a mass execution that may be too much for younger readers.
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  • Tirzah
    January 1, 1970
    The unique title is what made me research this book. When I found out it was based on a true story of a boy who had survived Operation Desert Storm, I knew I had to read it. I haven’t read any literature on that particular historical event and I was glad to see that this book was specifically geared towards the younger audience. I was a toddler during Desert Storm, but when the Second Persian Gulf War took place, I was old enough to be aware of the situation and remember it. Some children today The unique title is what made me research this book. When I found out it was based on a true story of a boy who had survived Operation Desert Storm, I knew I had to read it. I haven’t read any literature on that particular historical event and I was glad to see that this book was specifically geared towards the younger audience. I was a toddler during Desert Storm, but when the Second Persian Gulf War took place, I was old enough to be aware of the situation and remember it. Some children today may not be informed about Desert Storm and Saddam Hussein, so I think this book is a great way for teachers and/or parents to educate children. While there are heavy themes of war (i.e., bombing, shooting, reference to torture), it is told in a non-graphic tone that makes it appropriate for children approx. 3rd grade+ to handle (unless they are sensitive readers in which I suggest adults read it first). It was interesting to me as an adult and American to learn some of the Iraqi culture and be shown some first person accounts of how many innocent people suffered and died during this ruthless time. Besides the tragedy of war, there are shining moments of friendship and family bonds. Recommend for teachers and history buffs, young and old.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    This book is amazing. I very much recommend it for adult readers, and I would hesitate to have a middle grader read it if they are anything like me. I'm around the same age as the authors, and reading this boy's perspective on living under such horrific rule that we all watched from the safety of the USA made me just sick. This story is inspiring and scary and amazing. A must read.
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  • Mary Lee
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating that the family is Christian and Kurdish. There are students in my school for whom this book will be a mirror, but for the rest of us...what a powerful window.
  • Bookphile
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsReally affecting novel that is more appropriate for older middle grade readers, around 11 to 12 or so. Complete review to come.Full review:A young person myself during the 1991 U.S. war against Iraq, this book really widened my eyes. At that time, I wasn't interested all that much in the news, so while I was aware of the war going on, I didn't understand much about it. I've learned more since, but this book gave me a whole new perspective on the conflict. I will discuss the plot in some 4.5 starsReally affecting novel that is more appropriate for older middle grade readers, around 11 to 12 or so. Complete review to come.Full review:A young person myself during the 1991 U.S. war against Iraq, this book really widened my eyes. At that time, I wasn't interested all that much in the news, so while I was aware of the war going on, I didn't understand much about it. I've learned more since, but this book gave me a whole new perspective on the conflict. I will discuss the plot in some detail, which means there are elements of the book I'll be giving away.Given that the U.S. has been embroiled in war for multiple decades now, and given the rise of xenophobia over the last few years, I think a book like this is very timely in many ways. Unless you're a member of a military family, the fact that the U.S. is a country at war is sometimes easy to forget, since it doesn't affect the day to day lives of most Americans. The problem I see with this is it causes a lack of perspective. While I'm grateful my own kids aren't growing up in a war zone, I think it can be disturbingly easy for Americans to forget that this isn't the case for every child. Ali Fadhil's memoir is set more than twenty-five years ago, but it's an invaluable window into what life is like for children who do have to grow up with war on their doorstep. This is an insight that's not only valuable for children, it's also valuable for adults. One of my biggest concerns about our seemingly endless wars is that Americans are oblivious to the cost of those wars to the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan.What Fadhil writes about isn't always easy to read. There isn't anything graphic in the novel, but he does write about witnessing some disturbing events, such as the execution of several man at the hands of Ba'athist soldiers, as well as getting into some detail about Chemical Ali and the chemical warfare he helped Hussein wage against his own people. Since this is such serious and disturbing subject matter, I think this book is more appropriate for the ten and up set, and even then I think it's well worth parents reading it with their children in order to discuss these subjects. It can be far too easy to reduce the people living in a country we're waging war against as the enemy, while forgetting that they're human beings trying to care for their families and keep one another safe. As this book illustrates so vividly, Iraqis suffered a great deal under Hussein's rule, making him more of an enemy to his own people than he was to the U.S. The world could use a lot more empathy for the plight of people in situations like Ali Fadhil's family and a lot less unfounded fear and suspicion of people from other countries.This book contains a great deal with which most kids can identify. Along with the tensions brought about by war, Fadhil writes about his frustrations with feeling as though he's subject to unfair restrictions because of his age, as well as disputes with his siblings. There's also a very poignant section in which Fadhil's mother uses some of his comic books to light a cooking fire for her family, and how his feelings morph from anger to a new understanding of what his mother is going through, trying to care for her family in a time of war and its attendant hardships and shortages.This is a very sensitive, very startling read that touches on a myriad of important topics: war's collateral damage, racial and religious divisions within in Iraq, the oppression of the Iraqi people under Hussein, the stresses of living in a country in which your next-door neighbor might be an informant who can get you jailed or killed, and many others. There is a great deal of food for discussion here, and even if you don't have children, this book will likely teach you a lot.
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  • Zach Koenig
    January 1, 1970
    Hundreds of books are published each year (for all reading and grade levels) that focus on the lives of people struggling to get through World War II. That is a very well-researched and "comfortable" (in the sense that it happened far enough go to be more "history" than "reality" to most living people) genre to find stories in. A bit more rare is wartime fiction featuring most recent conflicts, and by focusing on the early-1990s Gulf War that is what "Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein" builds it Hundreds of books are published each year (for all reading and grade levels) that focus on the lives of people struggling to get through World War II. That is a very well-researched and "comfortable" (in the sense that it happened far enough go to be more "history" than "reality" to most living people) genre to find stories in. A bit more rare is wartime fiction featuring most recent conflicts, and by focusing on the early-1990s Gulf War that is what "Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein" builds its story around.This book is taken from the real-life experiences of Ali Fadhil (who co-authors with Jennifer Roy) and how he grew up in Iraq under the dictator "leadership" of Saddam Hussein. More specifically, the text focuses on the 1991 Gulf War, where Saddam's invasion of Kuwait prompts the United States of America to become involved in the conflict.It is very interesting to see the experiences of Ali play out in a real-time format. At first, he is just a normal kid growing up in Iraq who is bewildered by the politics of his homeland, plays Atari every chance he can get, and owns a collection of Superman comics. When U.S. bombs starting raining down, Ali is torn between loyalty to his homeland (which he knows, even at a young age, is in poor hands with Saddam) and his dreams of one day coming to America. Roy & Fadhil do a great job of really putting the reader inside the daily life of an Iraqi warzone, told almost exclusively from a family & child perspective.One thing to remember about "Atari", though, is that it is a very simple, middle school-focused read (perhaps even trending downward to high ES). Because of the interesting premise and setting, I can see seasoned readers finding it a little "easy" for their tastes. While this may indeed be the case, I think the intended audience (young readers) must be taken into consideration. At heart, this is a very personal story that is meant to be told in a simple, straightforward fashion. Could it have been fleshed out and more details/themes added? Sure. But that would have made it a more complicated, "older" read, too.I also have to give some praise to the ending of the book, as the last few pages really elevate the emotion and gravitas of the story. I won't give it away it, but suffice it to say that the ending will not be what you are expecting (yet will also work perfectly in the context of the overall story).Thus, for those looking for a unique wartime tale for young readers (that includes characters/themes that remain relevant to today as well), "Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein" will fill that breach. It may make readers think differently about war/conflict and family life in the Middle East, and if that indeed happens the book will have done its job admirably.
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    "Soon, America-- the land that I love-- is going to try to kill me. I'll try not to take it personally."Ali Fadhil is a young Iraqi boy during the Gulf War. During the 43 days that most of the book spans, Ali witnesses or experiences bombings, reduced (or non-existent) rations, murders, attempted theft, and the painful not-knowing of whether or not his father will return from the war. I think this book has a lot of great qualities: most importantly, it shows the experiences of the Gulf War from "Soon, America-- the land that I love-- is going to try to kill me. I'll try not to take it personally."Ali Fadhil is a young Iraqi boy during the Gulf War. During the 43 days that most of the book spans, Ali witnesses or experiences bombings, reduced (or non-existent) rations, murders, attempted theft, and the painful not-knowing of whether or not his father will return from the war. I think this book has a lot of great qualities: most importantly, it shows the experiences of the Gulf War from the perspective of an average, relatable 11-year-old Iraqi boy, and that is a valuable perspective and one that lots of kids would benefit from seeing. It explains the immediate cause of the Gulf War in a way that kids can understand, and it highlights the complexity of not agreeing with a leader privately but having to keep that a secret publicly. For me, what was missing from this book was the "can't put it down" factor. I felt like I wanted to know the characters more, but in the short span of time of the book, I only got Ali's frustration with Saddam Hussein's decisions, his love of Spiderman, soccer, and America, and his worry that his father might not come home. I wanted to learn more about Ali's experiences and get to know him, but I feel like because it was so short, I didn't have the opportunity to get to know him on a deeper level.I would say this book is appropriate for middle school students; there's one violent execution scene, but none of the violence in the story is gratuitous. I will definitely get a hard copy of this book for my bookshelf because I think there is a lot of value here, and I'm interested to see what my students think about it.
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  • Laura Gardner
    January 1, 1970
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 for Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by @jenniferroyauthor and Ali Fadhil. Thanks to @hmhkids for sending this to me to share with the @kidlitexchange network (#partner). All opinions are my own._*_*_*_*_*Swipe for the inside jacket._*_*_*_*_*War isn't pretty and this middle grade novel does a good job depicting that fact without being too morbid. Ali experiences food shortages, has to endure his father being conscripted into the army, endures nightly bombings and witnesses a public exec ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by @jenniferroyauthor and Ali Fadhil. Thanks to @hmhkids for sending this to me to share with the @kidlitexchange network (#partner). All opinions are my own._*_*_*_*_*Swipe for the inside jacket._*_*_*_*_*War isn't pretty and this middle grade novel does a good job depicting that fact without being too morbid. Ali experiences food shortages, has to endure his father being conscripted into the army, endures nightly bombings and witnesses a public execution. I will be interested to see what my students think of this book; it's a really sensitive look at a civilian child's experience of war and dictatorship. I loved Yellow Star so I was really excited to read this book. I confess I was a teeny bit sad that it wasn't written in verse like Yellow Star (it's my favorite format for MG books these days), but the story here is still powerful without the verse. Recommended for libraries with a strong interest in historical fiction (it feels weird to call 1991 historical since I was alive then, but it's definitely history for my students! Just need to face the fact that I'm getting older (as if looking in the mirror didn't already reinforce that...lol)._*_*_*_*_*#bookstagram #book #reading #bibliophile #bookworm #bookaholic #booknerd #bookgram #librarian #librariansfollowlibrarians #librariansofinstagram #booklove #booktography #bookstagramfeature #bookish #bookaddict #booknerdigans #booknerd #ilovereading #instabook #futurereadylibs #ISTElibs #TLChat #kidlitexchange
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  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    Ali lives with his family in Basra, Iraq. It is 1991 and America has just declared war on Iraq because Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Ali remembers the last war with Iran that lasted eight years and hopes this one goes better. Ali's father is a Kurdish dentist and reservist in the army. He leaves the family for weeks at a time. Ali's family lives in a nice neighborhood in Basra so they are not bombed, but they do feel the effects of the war. There are food and fuel shortages throughout the city. Ali lives with his family in Basra, Iraq. It is 1991 and America has just declared war on Iraq because Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Ali remembers the last war with Iran that lasted eight years and hopes this one goes better. Ali's father is a Kurdish dentist and reservist in the army. He leaves the family for weeks at a time. Ali's family lives in a nice neighborhood in Basra so they are not bombed, but they do feel the effects of the war. There are food and fuel shortages throughout the city. As the family makes do the children help out, but still find time to have fun with their friends. Thankfully it is a short war.There are very few if any books set during this time period. I found it interesting to read about from the point of view of an Iraqi and based on his real experiences. Ali and his family were definitely not fans of Saddam Hussein, but had learned to keep that information to themselves. Ali excels at English because he reads American comic books and watches American TV, which led to a job as an interpreter during the second Iraqi war according to the author's note at the end. This is a short book and a quick read and covers an interesting subject. I received this book from Netgalley.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    This is a slice of life novel based on a true story about Ali and his family in Basra under military siege during Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991. Key plot points revolve around Ali’s missing father, the ascension of his older brother to a head of household status with his father’s absence, and twin bullies Omar and Umar whose father has close ties to the Baath party.I’m always on the lookout for short books that take place under dramatic circumstances, and I think that this book’s a This is a slice of life novel based on a true story about Ali and his family in Basra under military siege during Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991. Key plot points revolve around Ali’s missing father, the ascension of his older brother to a head of household status with his father’s absence, and twin bullies Omar and Umar whose father has close ties to the Baath party.I’m always on the lookout for short books that take place under dramatic circumstances, and I think that this book’s a good choice for any school or library looking to diversify the geography of its fiction collection, especially in the grades 4-7 range. This is also a decent introductory text to novels that take place in dictatorships - there are brief mentions of how open dissent of Saddam Hussein could lead to death and even at an early age there is deep suspicion of government propaganda. However, I didn’t feel that gut-grabbing connection to any of the characters that make wartime books like this one work for me. Ali has relatable qualities, like his obsession with comic books and video games and his dislike of all things math, but the dialogue and development of his family fell flat.
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  • Marisa
    January 1, 1970
    An arc was provided by the publisher for an honest review.This is a great nonfiction written for an audience of Grades 5-7. This was a book that the reader doesn't want to put down. It follows 11year old Ali's experience of the 43 days of the bombing Iraq by nations, including the US. Operation Desert Storm. As someone who was an 8 year old in the US at the time, this provided more information, grounded from a real pre-teen boy's 2nd experience of war.There are some brief graphic scenes of hate An arc was provided by the publisher for an honest review.This is a great nonfiction written for an audience of Grades 5-7. This was a book that the reader doesn't want to put down. It follows 11year old Ali's experience of the 43 days of the bombing Iraq by nations, including the US. Operation Desert Storm. As someone who was an 8 year old in the US at the time, this provided more information, grounded from a real pre-teen boy's 2nd experience of war.There are some brief graphic scenes of hate speech, and Ali getting lost and being forced to watch the execution of 8 men. Scenes are brief. But in the context of the depth of YA holocaust nonfiction describing the atrocities that occurred, why the hesitancy to portray true stories based on more modern war and conflicts??? I can't wait to be able to booktalk this title to the middle school teens (Grade 7 & 8)....but not until February. I try to booktalk different genres and like having such a short accessible nonfiction not based on world war 2.
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  • Sam
    January 1, 1970
    Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!I was intrigued by Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein when I heard about it during Raincoast's Fall #TeensReadFeed preview. It's a story about living through bombings, yet still trying to live life despite constant fears. This book takes place during 1991 when Saddam Hussein goes to war with the United States. Ali Fadhil, an eleven year old boy, who just wants a normal life of loving soccer, video games and American television. This was an interesting read Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!I was intrigued by Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein when I heard about it during Raincoast's Fall #TeensReadFeed preview. It's a story about living through bombings, yet still trying to live life despite constant fears. This book takes place during 1991 when Saddam Hussein goes to war with the United States. Ali Fadhil, an eleven year old boy, who just wants a normal life of loving soccer, video games and American television. This was an interesting read since it's grounded in historical events. Ali is such a sweet main character who seeks normalcy with his friends and family. His siblings Ahmed, Shirzad and Shireen are also such wonderful characters. You learn so much about their family life and how as children they have to cope with a war that is surrounding them. I felt so many feelings read this book, from sadness to laughter. There's a lot of emotion in this very short read and a lot of Ali's feelings truly pack a punch. Overall, I really enjoyed Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein. It's a very compelling read, and the author's note is really intriguing given Ali's life situation and who he becomes much later in life. I wish there had been a bit more characterization to all the other characters as they did feel a touch one note, but since this book is more about an event and a family's connection to it, I can be forgiving. This is a great story and an absorbing read.
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  • Kathie
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC of this book. All opinions are my own.It's 1991, and 11-year-old Ali lives in Basra, Iraq. President Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait, and the United States declares war on Iraq. Ali and his family are forced to move into one of the bedrooms in their home each evening while the city is bombed. Ali's father disappears, and his older brother, Shirzad becomes the insufferable head of the household in his absence. For forty-one days, the war continues, and we see Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC of this book. All opinions are my own.It's 1991, and 11-year-old Ali lives in Basra, Iraq. President Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait, and the United States declares war on Iraq. Ali and his family are forced to move into one of the bedrooms in their home each evening while the city is bombed. Ali's father disappears, and his older brother, Shirzad becomes the insufferable head of the household in his absence. For forty-one days, the war continues, and we see the impact of the Iraqi war through the eyes of a child, and his family.The story is based on the true experiences of Ali Fadhil, which make this a very appealing book. I love to read historical fiction based on actual events, and we really do get to see an insider's view of what the people of Iraq experienced during the Gulf War. Unfortunately, the writing style of this book did not connect with me, and I found the language was not what I would expect from an eleven year old boy.
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  • Reading Fool
    January 1, 1970
    I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book.Though this is a middle grade book, adults should read it to gain insight into a child's experience with war. The story is set in 1991 Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. Ali Fadhil is an 11-year-old boy trying to survive America's bomb attacks with his family in the "safe room" in his home. He thinks Saddam Hussein is stupid to think that Iraq can win this war against the almighty American army. To distract himself from his fears, he imagines him I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book.Though this is a middle grade book, adults should read it to gain insight into a child's experience with war. The story is set in 1991 Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. Ali Fadhil is an 11-year-old boy trying to survive America's bomb attacks with his family in the "safe room" in his home. He thinks Saddam Hussein is stupid to think that Iraq can win this war against the almighty American army. To distract himself from his fears, he imagines himself in an Atari game. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, which was co-authored by an Iraqi man who served as an English interpreter during Hussein's trial. Highly recommend!
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  • Alyssa Schneyman
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a big fan of realistic historical fiction. I'm curious as to how much of Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein is actually fiction and not fictionalized. I found it simply un-put-downable. Playing Atari is very well written with tons of intimate details about everyday life in Iraq. I felt like Ali's thoughts, reactions, and feelings were incredibly genuine and will give kids reading the story a unique perspective on life in the Middle East. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ad I'm a big fan of realistic historical fiction. I'm curious as to how much of Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein is actually fiction and not fictionalized. I found it simply un-put-downable. Playing Atari is very well written with tons of intimate details about everyday life in Iraq. I felt like Ali's thoughts, reactions, and feelings were incredibly genuine and will give kids reading the story a unique perspective on life in the Middle East. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader's copy.
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  • Thing Two
    January 1, 1970
    This is an oral history of the life of 11 year old Ali during the first Gulf War. Ali narrates his struggles—living with his entire in the room the farthest away from the high school, a possible target; food shortages; fear of nightly bombings; missing his father—he doesn't make war seem glamorous, and he clarifies the voice of the on-the-ground Iraqi. This is a good read for middle school and up.
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  • Melinda
    January 1, 1970
    Short, quick middle grade historical fiction set during the 1991 Iraq war. I felt a lot of warmth for the narrator -- his voice is so relatably young (equal parts impulsive, frustrated, and hopeful) that it was easy to "know" him even as his experience was so foreign to me. His note about "I love American tv and I want to try pizza " broke my heart. This book fills a collection hole for sure and I'm glad to be able to hand it to kids.
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  • Becki
    January 1, 1970
    A cogent story of war from a child's/teenager's perspective. Could lend itself to classroom or book group discussion about the United States' role in the Middle East crises. Although marketed to middle grade (ages 10-12), I would recommend to 8th grade and above because of a graphic account of a mass execution.
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  • Aliza Werner
    January 1, 1970
    Based on a true story, this is an account from an Iraqi boy's point of view of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Fictionalized to read like a novel, it is important for young readers to learn about history through a variety of lenses. Characters remained flat and writing was clunky at times, but there were powerful moments with honest depictions of war that will engage and inform young readers.
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  • Tamsyn
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent, fast-paced and interesting. Recounts Ali’s (a middle school boy) experience of the American war against Iraq when Saddam Hussein refused to leave Kuwait in 1991. His family lived in Basra, only 30 miles from the border with Kuwait, where his father was stationed as a medic. (Spoiler) Ali has a fascination with America and learned to speak English so well, he grew up to be a translator at Saddam’s trial.
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  • Alicia
    January 1, 1970
    Good story based on real life events in a child's life. *received advanced reader copy from giveaway*
  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    Quite an eye-opening and well written story of a boy and his family, in Iraq, during Operation Desert Storm.
  • bnsbcslibrary
    January 1, 1970
    Historical fiction about an 11-year-old boy living through the Iraq war with Kuwait in 1991? Yes, please! Well-written, fast-paced, authentic story. Loved it.
  • Mr. Steve
    January 1, 1970
    Great book! I love accessible middle grade historical fiction. This book will be an easy sell at the library.
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    So good- exactly the kind of book that makes history "come alive", and in this case, the ending makes this story even more unforgettable.
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