cover image A STONE IN MY HAND


Cathryn Clinton, . . Candlewick, $15.99 (191pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1388-4

Working in a wholly different but no less ambitious vein than in her impressive debut, The Calling, Clinton proves to be as versatile as she is daring. Set in a Palestinian community in Gaza City during the intifada of 1988 and 1989, the novel opens with its narrator, 11-year-old Malaak, traumatized, barely talking and immersed in a fantasy life involving a tame bird. Eventually readers learn that Malaak's father was killed five weeks earlier, as he traveled to Israel looking for work; ironically, the bus he had taken was blown up by Islamic Jihad. Contrary to their family's principles, Malaak's older brother, Hamid, and his friend, Tariq (who saw his own father killed by Israeli soldiers), secretly become shabab (defined here as "youth activists"), throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and even joining in terrorist activities. Patiently counseled by her wise mother, visited in her dreams by her father (in one, "He went to the moon by jumping from star to star"), increasingly concerned about Hamid and Tariq, Malaak roots herself once again in the difficult world around her. Malaak's victories are hard-won, without benefit of a happy or tidy ending, and poetically wrought. The harsh portrayal of the Israeli occupation will be painful for many readers—and may even anger some—but Clinton's overall message is transcendently humane. A memorable achievement. Ages 11-up. (Oct.)