Monthly Archives: November 2018

Playing Atari with Sadam Hussein –Jennifer Roy, Ali Fadhil



Bloomsbury Australia

November 2018

ISBN 9781786074669

Imprint: One World

RRP: $14.99

Like most everyone in the Western World, of a certain age, I clearly remember the days of the early 90s watching the endless news updates about the raging conflict that was Desert Storm, the first Gulf War.  And I confess, though I was vaguely aware of the political machinations of both sides I was no expert nor had only a very sketchy notion of what it meant for Iraq. Of course, I had read or heard all the information about Hussein’s terrible despotic control and rumours of the atrocities and torture that were common. Yet I had, on the other side of the world, no real knowledge.

Ali Fadhil was eleven years when the war began. He and his family had already survived one war – that between Iraq and Iran – and since that time their life had moved on with ease. A large comfortable home, servants, the trappings of comfort and for Ali, his prized Superman comic collection, video games and an obsession with American TV and film. In fact, his command of English was exceptional due to his fervent interest in all things American.

Suddenly Ali and his family are plunged into a nightmare of bombings, food and water scarcity, the extreme anxiety for their safety and a city crashing down around them all. Ali’s recount of that time is told in such a way that young readers can fully appreciate the terror such an experience might hold without being overly graphic and with touches of humour as, like any kids, there are sibling squabbles even in the midst of dark times.

The narrative also clearly demonstrates the distaste and despair so many ordinary Iraqis felt at the hands of such an out-of-control ruler whose prime objective was his own self-preservation and self-aggrandizement with no thought or concern for his country or its peoples.

Fortuitously, Ali’s family survived the first and indeed the second Gulf War intact, something not many Iraqis would. Their closeness as a family, their respect for each other and the strength of the parents is a testament and key to this.

Ali’s fluency with English notwithstanding such learned phrases as ‘Book ‘em, Danno’ and ‘Pity the fool!’ eventually lead him not only to the important post of translator at Hussein’s trial but became a passport to his beloved America in 2008, where he was joined by his siblings a year later.

This is an important book both for younger and older readers, particularly in these uncertain times where ‘hate’ seems to be a universal currency particularly among those who should be leading the way to a global peace.

I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around ten years upwards.

The City of Guardian Stones – Jacob Sager Weinstein



Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781406368864
Imprint: Walker
Release Date: November 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

In the first of the trilogy The City of Secret Rivers Hyacinth Hayward managed to thwart the plot to control the magical powers of the underground waters of London and also gain some inkling about her family’s role as protectors of that city’s magic. Now in the second instalment Hyacinth is again joined in another manically paced adventure by familiar characters Little Ben and Oaroboarus, that unflappable mute yet eloquent porcine master of disguise. When ancient stones begin to be stolen from all over London, Hyacinth realises that this is yet another plot. With new characters – some friends, some foes – introduced including Dasra (suspect grandson of Lady Roslyn), Inspector Beale, Hungerford a large and somewhat awkward stone lion, the Precious Man and his daughter Minnie Tickle, Hyacinth embarks on a race-against-time to retrieve the missing magical stones and restore the balance of a structured city.

With the same hysterical humour as the first as well as the thrilling and adventurous, if convoluted, journey across and under the city, Hyacinth begins to not only surmise more about her own family’s role but to make discoveries about herself, hitherto unsuspected. Certainly aspects of her practical ‘instruction’ by female family members over the years become both understandable and frankly, very useful.

Again Weinstein has combined the gangbusters narrative with much hidden and fascinating history about this famous city which will continue to appeal to those interested in history mysteries.  Once again the factual notes and photos that conclude the novel provide some intriguing background to the story.

I for one am very much looking forward to the final instalment in this highly entertaining trilogy and again I highly recommend it for able readers from around 8 years upwards.