cover image Samir and Yonatan

Samir and Yonatan

Daniella Carmi. Arthur A. Levine Books, $15.95 (183pp) ISBN 978-0-439-13504-7

A Palestinian boy comes to terms with his younger brother's death in this slow-paced but moving novel originally published in Hebrew in 1994. In homage to the bravery of his brother Fadi, who was killed by an Israeli soldier, Samir shatters his kneebone in a daredevil bicycle feat. Consequently, he must undergo a special operation at the ""Jews' hospital."" Samir's fever plus the sealing off of territories keeps the boy hospitalized for several weeks in a ward with four Israeli children, including Yonatan, a boy with a hand in an ""iron contraption"" and a head in the clouds. The author simultaneously and effectively sketches the understated friendship that develops between the pair (""Together we're two boys with three legs and three hands,"" says Yonatan) and uses flashbacks to reveal the details of Samir's life in the occupied West Bank, including the effect of his brother's death on his family. Some readers may find the book's climax troubling: Samir, while playing a computer game with Yonatan in which he creates a new planet where ""everything is possible,"" comes to believe that Fadi died because ""he didn't have anything to carry on with."" However, the book's understated tone and detailed character development prevent its message from becoming obvious or heavyhanded. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)