Author: Daniella Carmi
Translator: Yael Lotan
When his injured knee forces Samir to go to the Israeli hospital, he finds himself alone, the only Palestinian boy in a room of Israeli kids. Not only does he have to deal with challenges such as communicating in a language he’s not used to and being away from his family, he’s also bothered by his brother’s death and his own internal turmoil. Still, as he lives in the hospital room with the four other kids, he finds they are just other kids with their own circumstances. In a sense, they become family. And when Yonatan, a quiet boy who always seems to have his nose in a book and his head in the stars, extends an offer of friendship–via a trip together to Mars–Samir’s world begins to expand in ways he never imagined possible.
I found Samir and Yonatan to be a sweet, thoughtful story. It’s about tolerance, absolutely, but there’s a lot more to the story than a simple cry for peace. More like, Carmi draws out the humanity, uncertainty, and wonder intrinsic in each of us. This is a story that begins in fearful alleyways and ends in the stars–full of dreams and understanding while acknowledging the reality of fear and guilt. Samir himself is all too easy to relate to, and Yonatan is just the friend I’d love to have. Much of the plot is built on relationships and changes in Samir’s thoughts and feelings–he’s stuck in a hospital bed most of the story, so there’s not much action going on. But the story works beautifully for all that; rather, it’s the sort of plot that draws out the author’s intent the best. I would recommend Samir and Yonatan for both older children and adults, especially those who enjoy thoughtful, purposeful, and poignant stories with a gentle pacing.