Characters, Themes, and Quotes

Main Characters
Additional Characters
Central Themes


  • Ahmad – Baddawi follows the story of Ahmad, a refugee child born to Palestinians who fled their homeland and took refuge in a camp called Baddawi. From a young age, he demonstrates creativity and a yearning for opportunities. He tries to make the best of his situation, but ends up growing up in fear. His story is one of survival and represents the fear and loss refugees then and now are forced to face. 




Sam Diaz '19

  • Ahmad’s Parents
  • Ahmad’s Grandparents





Sam Diaz '19


  • COMING OF AGE FOR A YOUNG BOY IN A WAR ZONE – Lelia Abdelrazaq’s Baddawi focuses on the life of the main character, Ahmad, and his experience growing up as a refugee. Overall, the main concept of the story is to capture the coming of age of Ahmad as he moves between Palestine, Lebanon, and finally, the United States. Baddawi begins when Ahmad is a young, naive boy. He lives life without understanding how intense the world around him really is. In the scene on page 52, Ahmad’s young age is showcased because he is not old enough to hold a gun or go bird hunting with the other older boys. Creatively, he decides to make his own way to trap birds using sticky branches. This scene showcases his youthful creativity while addressing his age in comparison to other boys around him. The same scene repeats on page 87 when Ahmad visits his hometown and is actually old enough to hold a gun of his own. However, Ahmad’s gun blows up and he gets hurt. The violence in this scene is visibly portrayed, especially when Ahmad’s gun blows up. The repetition of this scene, as well as the changes between violence and guns is one scene of many that shows Ahmad has grown up physically and mentally.


  • IMPORTANCE OF CULTURE IN A PLACE WHERE CULTURES CLASH – Throughout Baddawi, Abdelrazaq utilized many cultural elements to tie the storyline together. Throughout the pages of Baddawi, Abdelrazaq incorporates illustrated patterns that hold importance cultural meaning to the setting of the book. As a preface, on page 13 she writes “throughout this book, you will see a variety of geometric, floral, and sometimes “pixelated”-looking patterns integrated into the illustrations. These patterns are designs typically used in tratreez, traditional Palestinian embroidery.” One significant page in Baddawi that features the cultural patterns is page 62, when the cluster bombs attack and Ahmad’s cousin’s wife died while baking. The cultural pattern separates two moments that happen instantaneously. Also, Abdelrazaq illustrated two open hands at the beginning of the book to symbolize how muslims begin prayer on page 16. Her subtle incorporations of cultural illustrations represent that the story of Ahmad is more than just a picture book. Throughout the story, Abdelrazaq also uses bits of native language with a glossary at the end. For instance, she uses words like Jiddo, translated to “grandfather”, and Knafeh, a traditional dessert dish. The glossary also provides further information on cities mentioned throughout the story. The author could have chosen to not incorporate these words to make the story easy for readers to understand. However, by incorporating her native vocabulary, Abdelrazaq is able to tie in the importance of culture and language to tell her family’s store as accurately as possible. Lastly, as mentioned, she tells this story because it is the story of her family. Abdelrazaq is able to bring the story full-circle by including a family photo album at the end of the book. The photo album is between pages 121 and 122, featuring five photos. The photos show Ahmad as a child, Ahmad with his family, Ahmad at his family’s apartment, and the houses in the camp where the story takes place. These photos show the characters in real life and gives readers a glimpse at the authenticity of the story and blends in the culture of her family, as well.


  • PRIORITIZING EDUCATION OVER FAMILY – One recurring theme throughout Baddawi is the importance of education. Early on in the story line, Ahmad’s father gets offered a job in Lebanon and leaves his family in Palestine while he begins the job. When Ahmad’s mom gets sick, she moves to Lebanon with her husband and leaves her children in Palestine. The main reason that eight of the nine children do not leave Palestine is because they are in school (page 55). So, they make plans to reunite with their parents in the summer once they are finished school. Ahmad and his siblings go to Lebanon and attend a private school that is better than their previous school. However,  when Beriut becomes unsafe and the schools close down, Ahmad asks to go back to Baddawi because he will be able to continue his education (page 85). Eventually, once Ahmad finishes school, he plans to continue his education with college. Ahmad is then separated from his family once again when he goes to the United States for college. He attends a community college in Texas because the education in Texas is better than the education in Palestine and Lebanon. The story ends on page 116 with Ahmad getting separated from his family yet again to pursue an education.

Shannon Oteri '19


Explanation of Pages:



This page describes how Ahmad and his family celebrated Eid in Baddawi. Even though Ahmad and  his family were forced to leave their home in Palestine, they still maintained their traditions and religion in the refugee camp. Eid is an important religious holiday which marks the end of Ramadan ― Baddawi, pg. 36










This page shows a conversation between Ahmad and his parents. Ahmad applied and was accepted to the University of Houston.  Moving to America means that he will not be able to marry his girlfriend Manal. Accepting the offer means sacrificing life with his family and friends and moving to a foreign country to continue his education. ― Baddawi, pg. 114










During the airstrikes, Ahmad's family often had to take shelter in the basement of there building. During this time, Ahmad learned how to play chess. The game of chess requires strategy, skill and knowing the right time to attack the opponent.  ― Baddawi, pg. 83










Ahmad compares the game of chess to the war. According to him,  the game of chess is played logically, while the killing of innocent people and violent politics is not. The picture depicts the Israeli and Syrian leaders investing money into weapons used to create massive damage to the enemy.  ― Baddawi, pg. 84










In order to escape from the war happening in Baddawi, Ahmad decided to move to Beruit to stay out of danger. When bombings start happening in his new home, he  decided to return to Bawwadi and continue his education. His decision to leave his parents and siblings to attend school shows how dedicated he is to his education. ― Baddawi, pg. 85






Lillian Goldman Muller '19


Baddawi’s Homepage

Lillian Goldman Muller, Shannon Oteri, Sam Diaz ’19

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