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A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return

Author/illustrator: Zeina Abirached

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Grade levels: 6-8, 9-12

School Subject: History/Social Studies

Genre: Biography/Autobiography, Political

Special Attractions: Nonfiction, Female Lead Characters, Child Lead Characters, Multicultural Lead Characters, Social issues, For adults too

Synopsis: When Zeina was born, the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for six years, so it’s just a normal part of life for her and her parents and little brother. The city of Beirut is cut in two by bricks and sandbags, threatened by snipers and shelling. East Beirut is for Christians, and West Beirut is for Muslims. When Zeina’s parents don’t return from a visit to the other half of the city, and the bombing grows ever closer, the neighbors in her apartment house create a world indoors for Zeina and her brother, where they can share cooking lessons and games and gossip. Together they try to make it through a dramatic evening in the one place they hoped they would always be safe—home. Zeina Abirached, born into a Lebanese Christian family in 1981, has collected her childhood memories of Beirut in a warm story about the strength of family and community.

New York Times review

School Library Journal review

Publishers Weekly review

Author’s page

Publisher’s page


  • ALA Notable Children’s Books
  • Batchelder Award
  • Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Choices
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Los Angeles Public Library Best of 2012 Teen Books
  • Middle East Book Award
  • Notable Books for a Global Society
  • Texas Maverick Graphic Novels Reading List
  • USBBY Outstanding International Books List
  • YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens
  • YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults