My Year 6 son is currently studying Oranges in No Mans Land at school and my Year 8 daughter had chosen it from the library. As they were both reading it, my interest was piqued, and I sat down and read the whole book in one sitting. My daughter, spurred on by how quickly I’d gotten through it, finished it within a couple of days. She’s the reluctant reader, remember, so this was good going for her. I think it’s important for your kids to see you reading, particularly books they can also read. It sparked a conversation between the three of us too, a discussion about civil war and its consequences.
The story is set in Lebanon, during the civil war and told from the point of view of a ten-year-old girl who, although has no idea what the fighting is all about, is caught up in the middle of it all.
All Ayesha knows is that the war has had tragic consequences for her family, left them homeless and cut them off from friends on the other side of the city.
What separates the city is an invisible line, a no-mans-land armed with soldiers from each side of the fighting. And when Ayesha’s grandmother becomes gravely ill, she sees no other alternative than to cross this line in order to seek help.
When you read a story about war written from a child’s point of view, you get none of the politics involved or the reasons why war may have broken out in the first place. What you get, instead, is an honest account of what it feels like to live through something that you have no understanding of. It brings home the complete pointlessness of war in general, as you see how it affects innocent lives.
When people lived side by side as friends, yet now they are separated, how can a child even begin to comprehend that?
Oranges in No Mans Land is an easy-to-read, yet poignant story. The author doesn’t try to simplify war in any way. In fact, the story is heartbreaking at times, yet for a child, it is a way of being able to visualise the complexities of war and how it impacts ordinary people.
At 115 pages, this book is ideal for reluctant readers who tend to steer away from longer texts.