Oranges in No Man's Land ISBN: 9780330445580
Published by Macmillan Children's Books, 2007
Set in the civil war in Beirut forty years ago, this moving short novel tells the story of Ayesha and her family. When the war gets worse, her mother decides the family must leave, and as Ayesha, her granny and her two brothers run, a shell falls on the makeshift house they have been living in, and her mother is killed. This tragedy means that the family must live in a big house in the centre of Beirut with many other families. Each family has a corner of a room, and in this corner, they live, eat and sleep. Ayesha meets a girl her age, Samar, and they become best friends. Samar is deaf, and she soon begins to teach Ayesha sign language. She also lip reads, so the girls communicate in their own way - which includes sharing stories and special treasures in their secret place on the stairs. When Ayesha's granny becomes very ill, the children realise that she has run out of her medicine, and that she desperately needs more from the kind doctor she had always gone to before. The only way to get it is for Ayesha to make the very dangerous trip through no man's land in the middle of Beirut, and as she is only ten, this is a very difficult thing to do. Being full of courage, she doesn't hesitate, and off she goes. Her adventures and dangers are described in harrowing detail, but she manages to find the doctor who arranges everything and gets her back to her family. There is a happy ending for Ayesha's family, but as Samar's family are leaving the refugee house, she must give up this very important friendship. The author experienced the civil war in Beirut herself. She and her husband and baby son were living there and knew intimately all the places that Ayesha had to go on her quest. This makes the story all the more convincing, and very convincing it is! The place and the people come alive, and the differences in the two Muslim communities are vividly shown. A wonderful story full of realism, war and bravery.