Author: Deborah Ellis
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
This book is about a girl named Parvana who disguises herself as a boy to support her family. She lives in Kabul, Afghanistan, a place controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban are an extreme religious group that is quickly taking over the country. Most of their laws ban women from doing the simplest things, such as going outside without covering their entire body with cloth, working, and even going outside without a man. The laws forbid any sort of music, foreign ideas, and pretty much everything the Taliban don’t like. Girls aren’t even allowed to go to school. Many men and older boys are satisfied with the new rules, and are happy to make their wives stay inside. But not Parvana’s father.
Parvana’s father was a former history teacher, until he lost his school and his lower leg in a bombing. He is the one that makes the family’s money and sustains their well-being. That is, until he is arrested for no apparent reason by the Taliban, leaving Parvana and her family to fend for themselves. He is the only man in the house, except for an infant named Ali. So the family is left alone, with apparently no hope, no friends, and only one room to sit and squander. But then they meet Mrs. Weera, a former P.E. teacher and grandmother. She gives Parvana and her “team” hope and comes up with the idea to disguise Parvana as a boy. Parvana is sure that she won’t get away with it and, lo and behold, she goes to work for days without being spotted – by the Taliban, that is. During her first couple days of selling things here and there, she spots a boy that looks quite familiar. She quickly figures out that it’s not a boy at all – it’s her old classmate Shauzia. In the past they weren’t very close, they had different friends, but now their friendship is one of the few things that keeps them sane. They pull each other into things that they probably shouldn’t be doing. In the end of the story Parvana discovers her father at their doorstep and quickly is happy again.
This book was a grim reawakening for me. It made me truly realize what many people in the U.S. ignore, or do not really understand. It made me realize that there really are people struggling for life in other parts of the world and even here in the states. That there are very cruel people willing to go into very real violence to enforce their beliefs on other people. This book is extremely hard to recommend to a specific age group. The material would be suitable for ages twelve and up, but the length and vocabulary would be suitable for maybe ages 8-10. If I had to pick I would recommend this book to ages 11-14.
Posted by: Fred Reads