Friday, November 26, 2010

Battle of the Books Friday - The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

It’s Battle of the Books Friday.  This week’s book is on the 2010 – 2011 Pikes Peak Region Battle of the Books list.  The Breadwinner tells the story of Parvana and her family after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.  Since that time she has only been outside in the company of her father. Her mother and two sisters have not left the apartment in over a year.  Women are prohibited from attending school, shopping or even being outside alone.  Eleven-year-old Parvana is allowed to accompany her crippled father to the market where he reads and writes letters in an effort to support the family.  She is only allowed to do this because he needs assistance walking. Before the Taliban, Parvanna’s family was successful.  Both her parents are well educated. They had a nice home.  She and her sister attended school.  After the Taliban they had to move frequently as their homes were bombed.  Things couldn’t get much worse until the Taliban arrests her father. To save the family from starvation Parvana must to become the "breadwinner." She disguises herself as a boy so she can get a job to support her family. Set in the early years of the Taliban regime, The Breadwinner highlights the harsh life for girls and women in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. 

Ellis is an excellent storyteller, able to convey the seriousness of the situation but also keeping the reader entertained with Parvanna’s resourcefulness and courage.  This is an excellent novel to use for teaching about perseverance as well as differences in other cultures.  One of my former students read this book and was so moved by the plight of girls and women under the Taliban regime that she was inspired to start fundraising to help build schools for women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

Mrs. Archer’s rating:  5 or 5

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