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Children's Nonfiction General

My Childhood Under Fire

A Sarajevo Diary

by (author) Nadja Halilbegovich

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2008
General, Europe
Recommended Age
10 to 14
Recommended Grade
5 to 9
Recommended Reading age
10 to 14
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2008
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2006
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


“Bombs are exploding all over the city. I hide my feelings from everyone, but I am drowning in despair. When will this war end? For how long will my life consist of the dead space between two explosions?” --- June 6, 1995

On the first day of the siege of Sarajevo, 12-year-old Nadja Halilbegovich's life changed forever. In the face of constant tank and sniper fire, daily life in this beautiful, mountain-ringed city was suddenly full of fear. Without reliable electricity, water or medical supplies, the blockaded city ground to a halt. Nadja and her fellow citizens tried desperately to live normal lives while forced to scrounge for even the most basic necessities.

My Childhood Under Fire is Nadja's diary of the years 1992-95. It is her personal account of becoming a teenager during wartime. It is also a monument to the thousands killed during the siege of Sarajevo and to the millions of children around the world who still live --- and die --- under fire.

About the author

Nadja Halilbegovich is a survivor of the war in Bosnia. She was twelve when the war began and throughout the war she wrote her diary. At the age of 14, she published her diary in the war-torn city of Sarajevo and became known as the Bosnian Anne Frank. She was wounded by a bombshell and still carries seven pieces of shrapnel in her legs. She escaped the war at the age of 16 and finished high school and university in the United States. She became an active public speaker for peace and tolerance. In 2006, she published a book entitled My Childhood Under Fire in the U.S. and Canada. Her book has been awarded the “2006 Best Book Award? under Social Studies by the Society of School Librarians International as well as nominated for the Norma Fleck Award and the Golden Oak Award. A French translation has been released in 2007.

Nadja Halilbegovich's profile page


  • Winner, Books for the Teen Age List, New York Public Library
  • Winner, Independent Publisher Book Award - Bronze Medal
  • Short-listed, Golden Oak Award, Ontario Library Association
  • Short-listed, Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada
  • Winner, International Book Award, The Society of School Librarians International
  • Short-listed, Norma Fleck Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre

Editorial Reviews

[I]mmediate and resonant.—Publishers Weekly

This is an important book as it reveals the effects of a little-known war on innocent people from a personal perspective.—School Library Journal

This book keeps readers entranced as they learn of the horror, savagery and cruelty that took place during the war.—Canadian Children's Book News

Her terse vignettes replay the horror of her comfortable home torn apart. The haunting question, 'Why did the world allow it to happen?' drives her powerful plea for peace.—Booklist

Librarian Reviews

My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary

From 1991 to 1995 the people of Sarajevo endured pain and agony as their multicultural modern European city was taken over by nationalists who intended to destroy ethnicity, religion and cultural differences through a genocide war.

It was during this time that 13-year-old Nadja Halilbegovich began writing compelling journal entries in a notebook as a way to reflect and comprehend the complexities of the war. Confined in a basement for protection, Halilbegovich discovered that writing in a journal allowed her to remain human and sane in a world that was full of chaos and confusion. This journal later became published as the book, My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary.

My Childhood Under Fire is a monument to the thousands of innocent people killed during the siege and the millions of children who still live and die under fire in senseless acts of war and evil. Halilbegovich describes her personal experiences of living in a war zone for four years. The book keeps readers entranced as they learn of the horror, savagery and cruelty that took place during the war.

My Childhood Under Fire is written in a diary style using brief daily paragraphs as journal entries. The book also includes Halilbegovich’s selfreflections as she looks back and tries to comprehend the density of trying to survive in unimaginable conditions. Photographs and black and white illustrations enhance the book and give the reader a glimpse of Halilbegovich’s life. The front photo covers and jacket design makes an influential contribution to the compelling book.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2006. Vol.29 No. 4.

My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary

Twelve-year-old Nadja’s diary from 1992 to 1995 is her account of becoming a teenager during wartime. It is also a memorial to the thousands killed during the Siege of Sarajevo.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Canadian Children’s Book News. 2007.