Review: Avi and Ahmed Play Football in Jerusalem's Sacher Park
Avi and Ahmed Play Football in Jerusalem's Sacher Park
by Kerry Olitzky & Inas Younis, illustrated by Leticia Saad
Overlooking those missteps, it is possible to focus on the light-heartedness and good intentions that are at the heart of the story. The love of play naturally fosters friendship and laughter among children of different backgrounds—and the parents are happy to encourage the togetherness. Even when the humor is stilted, the message is benevolent, and appropriate to the age of picture book and beginning readers.
This book meets the Sydney Taylor Book Award criteria on most counts. It is a warm and inclusive story about a natural friendship between a Jewish and Arab boy set in contemporary Jerusalem. The illustrations are appealing, but reveal little of the city’s broader landscapes and Mediterranean colors and flavors. There is the happy exception of the street vendor who sells freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. Even if tangible cultural references to Israel are limited, the message of respect for diversity is clear and affirmed by the adults in the background of the story. The visiting cousins from the United States and the gift football make the story relatable for young American readers. The moral of friendship, good sportsmanship, humor, and overcoming misunderstanding will resonate, though the plot deliberately shies away from the conflict in the region. The content, vocabulary, illustrations and format are amiable and appropriate for young children and early readers.