Oranges in No Man’s Land by Elizabeth Laird

A powerful read – very relevant for today’s world


Ayesha is a ten year old girl living in war torn Beirut. She has memories of better times an her parents have told her about the life they led in the South before the troubles began. However, now life is hard and she finds herself living with her grandmother and two younger brothers among the bombs and bullets of this destroyed city. When her grandmother falls ill, the thought of losing her forces Ayesha to take a big risk and cross the dangerous Green Line in to Non Man’s Land as she tries to find the medicine that could save her grandmother’s life.

The book was originally published in 2006 and is based on the author’s experience of living in Beirut in 1977. However, despite the passage of time, this story is still relevant: today, almost 40 years after Elizabeth Laird experienced life in this war torn city, Lebanon and Beirut are still not regarded as safe places to visit. Equally, Ayesha’s experience is shared by many other young children in war torn cities around the world. The story is simple and fairly short – an easy but powerful read. The messages it carries is are important ones for young people to hear – how easy it is for life to change and how important it is not to hate. At school, some of my fellow classmates were from Lebanon – they were lucky to be rich enough to make a life away from the troubles but I remember how they spoke with longing of the beauty of their country and how when they met another Lebanese student their first questions were aimed at ascertaining where they came from in Lebanon and which religion they belonged to. They would have benefited from listening to the message in this book – as will many young people growing up in a world that often seems too full of intolerance.

I am a big fan of Elizabeth Laird’s books. They bring history and other cultures to life, telling stories about people and places far away. Some of the stories are set far back in the past (The Prince Who Walked with Lions), whilst others are set in more recent times (The Fastest Boy in the World, Lost Riders), but all are easy, straightforward reads that enable the reader to sit back and relax whilst learning about the world they live in.

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