This series of 4 books by Deborah Ellis are for the 9-13 year old age group, yet deal with a reality of life for women and girls in Afghanistan that is quite confronting.
My son’s teacher (Year 6) read it aloud to their class, which was good (that’s how I found out about them, he got the rest at the library and told me to read them). Yet there was no discussion at all about the issues raised in the classroom, which I think was a real shame and a little irresponsible.
A quick précis of each book for you:
Parvana – Parvana is 11, and she and her family have been mostly confined indoors since the Taliban took over Kabul. After her father is dragged off to prison for being educated, Parvana dresses as a boy to get small jobs in the market to care for her family. Her mother and elder sister leave to arrange a marriage for her sister, and at the end when the father is released from prison we find out the mother and sister’s destination has also been taken by the Taliban, so they plan to go and find them.
Parvana’s Journey opens with Parvana burying her father during their travel. She continues on alone, finding 3 other children and babies along the way who have also been orphaned in the ongoing war.
In Parvana’s Promise, her mother has now established a school for girls yet faces considerable opposition from locals. In the end of the book, we find out the mother was tortured and murdered. The chilling part of this book is that it is told during the parallel account of her imprisonment by US troops while on suspected terrorism charges.
In Shauzia (which would be better to read 3rd not 4th), we read about Parvana’s friend from book 1 and her attempts to leave Afghanistan and then Pakistan, always dreaming of escaping to France and it’s lavender fields.
This could be disturbing reading for children. I found them quite confronting myself. It was odd to read something so powerful, yet with a level of vocabulary that my 9 year old could have handled (not that I would let her read them yet).
Having said that, I still recommend them. When children around the world really live like this, it is eye-opening for my very protected children to have a glimpse of it.
However be careful letting children who are very sensitive read them. And if your children do read them, please make sure you talk about it with them.