Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Breadwinner (Deborah Ellis)

At our last parent-child book club another parent was talking about this book. They were having the author come speak at their school. Man, I wish I had taken my kids to listen to the author! If she's as dynamic as the book is it would have been an amazing experience. It is like reading A Thousand Splendid Suns...but only a kid's version.

The Breadwinner is a story of a family in Afghanistan during the recent wars. It's one of those books that you can't put down because there's so much action!

Here's the summary from

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana has rarely been outdoors. Barred from attending school, shopping at the market, or even playing in the streets of Kabul, the heroine of Deborah Ellis's engrossing children's novel The Breadwinner is trapped inside her family's one-room home. That is, until the Taliban hauls away her father and Parvana realizes that it's up to her to become the "breadwinner" and disguise herself as a boy to support her mother, two sisters, and baby brother. Set in the early years of the Taliban regime, this topical novel for middle readers explores the harsh realities of life for girls and women in modern-day Afghanistan. A political activist whose first book for children, Looking for X, dealt with poverty in Toronto, Ellis based The Breadwinner on the true-life stories of women in Afghan refugee camps.
In the wily Parvana, Ellis creates a character to whom North American children will have no difficulty relating. The daughter of university-educated parents, Parvana is thoroughly westernized in her outlook and responses. A pint-sized version of Offred from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Parvana conceals her critique of the repressive Muslim state behind the veil of her chador. Although the dialogue is occasionally stilted and the ending disappointingly sketchy, The Breadwinner is essential reading for any child curious about ordinary Afghans. Like so many books and movies on the subject, it is also eerily prophetic. "Maybe someone should drop a big bomb on the country and start again," says a friend of Parvana's. "'They've tried that,' Parvana said, 'It only made things worse.'"

I loved, loved loved this book. I will get both of my children to read it. It's books like these that make me want to teach again! .....or have a kid's book club, or work in a library....or write!

It also makes me so grateful to live here. It makes me think we ought to be doing something a little more to help the people in those countries that are having to live through war. My guess is that there are going to be many more amazing stories to come out of Afghanistan. There's a review and a really good video on this website. Do check it out!

Lots to think about in this book! And apparently there's a sequel. Parvanna's Journey. I'm going to get that one tonight!

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