Review of “Beni’s War” by Tammar Stein
Infotainment is a term usually restricted to journalism and news. This is the term though that came to my mind as I was reading Beni’s War, because it was entertaining while informative. It is an excellent book to teach about the Yom Kippur War in 1973 to the targeted age group of 9-13 year olds. If you make the protagonist the same age as the intended readers and write a book from that child’s perspective it surely will resonate more with the readers. I am way over that age and still worked on me. I recalled my own mental and emotional state at that age. Making real history relatable for today’s tweens is a challenge and if done successfully, like here, is a rare feat.
The book is educational on a personal level too. Besides teaching about history through a fictional story it has quite a few life lessons rather explicitly embedded in it. E.g.
- Compassion is a skill that can be developed: “It’s hard not to hate someone who hates you. It’s hard not to hurt someone who’s hurt you.” (Page 145)
- We are all related, so follow the golden rule: “In such a small country, we look out for one another. And sometimes we find what we’re looking for.” (Page 162)
- Grieving is a process that requires energy and time: “That’s what living with grief is like. At first, almost too heavy to bear. Awkward and painful to see. Then slowly, slowly, it begins to be possible to live. Possible to feel happiness. But it’s hard work to get there, and I’m tired.” (Page 177)
- Don’t dehumanize the enemy: “I suddenly realize that to him, we’re the enemy.” (Page 244)
What In enjoyed most in this book is the personified experience of a tween; how accurately the author described such everyday inner stories as magical thinking (“get better”), the angst of being bullied, the elevating feeling of forgiving someone, the excitement of learning something new….
For an adult the book is a quick read as it set in large font and each of the 265 or so actual pages has only 15 lines. While you are at it also read the two-pages long afterword for a quick account of the war.
For a summary of what actually happens in the book I recommend reading this review.
It’s Yom Kippur Eve in 1973, and twelve-year-old Beni thinks his biggest problem is settling in at his new school in the Golan, where his family moved at the end of the Six-Day War. But on Yom Kippur, shocking news comes over the radio: a stunning strike on Israel has begun, led by a coalition of Arab states. In the blink of an eye, Beni’s older brother Motti is off to war, leaving Beni behind with his mother and father. As bombs drop around Beni and his family, they flee to safety, every day hoping for news of Motti and the developments of the war. Beni must find a way to aid the war effort in his own way, proving that he too can be a hero, even as he learns along the way that there is dignity in every person, including the people he considers the enemy.
Disclaimer: I have received an electronic copy of this book from Kar-Ben Publishing, the publisher for review.
Year first published: 2020