Recommending Palestinian Kid Lit: ‘Hantush’

Reviewed by Elisabet Risberg, translated by Eva Apelqvist

Written by Salha Hamdin

Illustrated by Ahmad al-Khalidi

Published by Tamer Institute

Salha is 14 years old and lives in a small tent in a village called Wadi Abu Hindi. After school she always goes home to the family’s sheep; she milks them and then sells the milk to the villagers. The land next to where they used to live is occupied by Israeli soldiers and they have proclaimed the area a military zone. This is why the villagers now live in tents and have a make-shift school building made from sugar canes. The fields and the grazing grounds are used as a shooting range for the soldiers. They shoot day and night. Salha hates the sound of shooting and when she hears it, she just wants to flee, far away! But how can she get away? She has no bicycle and no car, and besides, the roads are so bad you can hardly use them. The soldiers don’t allow the villagers to pave the road with asphalt. And Salha does not have a plane, but … she has a secret! Hantush, one of the sheep in the herd, the black one with the long ears, has wings beneath his wool. Hantush can fly!

When the soldiers begin to shoot, Salha sings in Hantush’s ear:


my fine sheep!

Open the wings

beneath your wool!

Hantush opens his wings and lifts off. They fly all the way to Barcelona where they meet Messi himself. Salha tells him that there is nowhere in the village where they can play since the soldiers have buried landmines everywhere. In Barcelona they can play soccer without worrying about mines.

Hantoush and Salha play against Messi and his team. Hantush plays goalie and Salha attacks time and again, and they win by five goals. When the game is over, Messi wants them to stay and play for his team, but Salha must return home. The sheep are waiting for her because nobody else can milk them. Salha’s father is in prison and will not be released for many years.

But Messi tells her that he will travel to Wadi Abu Hindi, because the World Cup in soccer will be held there! First, they need to clear the land of landmines and build a large soccer arena, an arena that will, naturally, be called Hantush.

The person who has written this fine story is Salha Hamid and she wrote it when she was 14 years old, during a workshop with Palestinian author Anas Abu Rahma, when they participated in a project; “a multifaceted artistic approach for the valorization of Bedouin oral tradition”. The workshop was a collaboration between the Italian organization Vento di Terra and the Tamer Institute. The story is very serious, of course; the Bedouins in Palestine live under very difficult circumstance with a constant threat of being forced off the land they live on. The children’s schools are torn down and education often takes place outdoors or in temporary sheds.

Please read more about Vento de Terra’s work to support Palestinian Bedouins here.


Elisabet Risberg is a Swedish librarian reading Arabic children’s literature. Find her at @arabarnlitt on Instagram and at her blog,, where this review first appeared in Swedish.