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Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

Based on a True Story

Jennifer Roy

Video game villains and real-life dictators dominate daily life for eleven-year-old Ali

Ali Fadhil has very simple likes and dislikes. It is 1991 in Iraq and all Ali wants to do is read his comics and play football and video games. But President Saddam Hussein has other plans. After he invades neighbouring Kuwait, the U.S. and their allies launch Operation Desert Storm to force him out. Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family would survive bombings, food shortages and constant fear.

Cinematic and timely, this is the story of how war changed one boy’s destiny forever and would one day bring him face to face with Saddam himself at the UN trial.

  • Publication date: September 6, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781786074669
  • RRP: £6.99
  • Pages: 176
  • Publication date: September 6, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781786074676
  • RRP: £3.99
  • Pages: 176


'Ali's narrative voice captures the tension of a boy who is young enough to cry when his mother burns a comic book to cook their rice and old enough to comprehend the absurdity of Americans dubbing the nightly bombing “the video game war." A disturbing but accessible portrait of a civilian child’s perspective on war.'

Publishers Weekly

'Based on co-author Ali Fadhil's real experiences, Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein skilfully portrays war from a child's perspective, mixing relatable obsessions with comics and video games and battles with bullies with larger concerns.'


'This blending of biography, historical fiction, and realistic fiction paints a vivid portrait of daily family life in Iraq and the trials many faced. A good choice for most middle grade shelves.'

School Library Journal

'What strikes are the mundane aspects of the brief war: going out to play and explore a familiar but ruined neighbourhood, the boredom and fear of awaiting scheduled airstrikes, living with uncertainty about loved ones returning home. Still, there’s room for optimism and humour despite Fadhil’s harrowing experience.'


'This slightly fictionalized biography of a half-Kurdish boy growing up in Saddam Hussein's Iraq during Operation Desert Storm is riveting. The book is full of homey details of a family simply trying to outlive and out-wait the madness of war, the bizarre behavior of a narcissistic dictator, and the fact that their home in Basra is situated right between Hussein's capital city of Baghdad and Kuwait — the small oil-rich country he has invaded. History in a nutshell.'

Jane Yolen, author of The Devil's Arithmetic and Mapping the Bones

'This is an important book both for younger and older readers, particularly in these uncertain times where "hate" seems to be a universal currency particularly among those who should be leading the way to a global peace. I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around ten years upwards.'

Just So Stories

Jennifer Roy

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