Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A STONE IN MY HAND by Cathryn Clinton

Clinton, Cathryn. A Stone in My Hand. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-7636-4772-8. $6.99. Age: 10 and up

Cathryn Clinton describes A Stone in My Hand as historical fiction. She says it is "the story of a single girl and single family"and that it is not meant to be a comment on present political situations. Nevertheless, the tale, that of an eleven-year-old Palestinian girl whose father has gone missing, is achingly current.

Malaak is so traumatized by her father's disappearance that she falls into near silence; in fact, rather than talk to her family and friends, she begins to confide in a bird named Abdo. Malaak talks to Abdo as she watches the world of 1988 and 1989 Gaza City: There are soldiers, guns, and bombs; curfews and school closures; hot city streets and cool nights on rooftop patios. She studies those around her: her sister, Hend, dreaming of one day having her own home and family, her mother growing ever paler and tired, and her brother, Hamid, whose eyes crackle with fire as he longs to join the Palestinian Liberation Organization. She observes her brother's friend, Tariq, who rarely speaks after witnessing the shooting of his father when Tariq was five years-old. Through all of this, Malaak imagines that she can see through Abdo's eyes and fly above the conflict surrounding her. Nonetheless, Malaak and her family cannot escape the violence and another tragedy threatens to once more render Malaak mute.

Clinton manages to provide a story of hope while staying within the confines of a reality that can have no happy ending. Death, violence, and the pain of a broken family are all present, but life, kindness, and resilience gained through friends and family are even more powerful. A Stone in My Hand is well suited for early adolescent readers. Yes, it is a far gentler rendering than it might be, but it is a good introduction and reminder of the complex and overwhelming dilemma that children and teenagers, not just adults, must face.

Stephanie Ashley

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