The final stunning chapter in a heartfelt series

TITLE = PARVANA’S PROMISE

AUTHOR = DEBORAH ELLIS

GENRE = REFUGEES, WAR, POLITICS, CHILDHOOD, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

The opening of this book may well surprise readers of the Parvana series: for it is set in a US Army base in Afghanistan and it appears that the young girl who is being questioned as a suspected terrorist is, in fact, Parvana! Readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering how this has come about and what lies ahead for Parvana.

And so the story unfolds in dual paths: part of the story recounts the interrogation process and Parvana’s imprisonment whilst alternating chapters take us back to see how events unfolded to bring Parvana to this point. We see Parvana working with her mother and sisters in setting up a school, trying to help her fellow refugees against great odds. For this education project is not welcomed by local villagers especially some very traditional men who see it as inappropriate for girls to be wasting their time on an education. The hatred that the school inspires may seem inexplicable to modern Aussie teens, but it is credibly portrayed and provides a threatening backdrop to the book.

Yet balanced against this is the more immediate threat of the Army officers who see Parvana as a potential source of danger. Will she survive against the emotional drain of interrogations or will she gain her freedom?? And why is she staying so silent anyway??

This novel cleverly brings the reader up to date with Parvana’s story whilst also introducing readers to the idea that foreign troops may be trying to bring peace to this region but they may in fact bring further torment for the surviving people of this war-ravaged land. A thought-provoking novel, in keeping with the rest of this wonderful series (“Parvana“, “Parvana’s Journey“, “Shauzia” are the previous titles in the series) .

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A moving insight into life in a refugee camp

TITLE = SHAUZIA

AUTHOR = DEBORAH ELLIS

GENRE = REFUGEES, WAR, POLITICS, CHILDHOOD, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Readers of the “Parvana” series will recall that Shauzia was Parvana’s best friend in the first book. Together they worked in the Kabul market and dreamed of one day escaping from the toil and trouble of Afghanistan and travelling to France to lie in fields of lavender.

As the title suggests, this book focusses on Shauzia’s story and how she is surviving in the refugee camp in Pakistan. Shauzia was every bit as headstrong and determined as Parvana and she is frustrated at the way of life around her. She rebels against the older women in the refugee camp and sets off alone, hoping to make it to the sea so she can travel to France, and maybe meet up with Parvana there.

However, Shauzia soon discovers that surviving on her own in the city of Peshawar is fraught with danger.  Will her headstrong nature actually prove to be a curse for Shauzia or will it give her  the will to survive??

For those who have enjoyed the “Parvana” series, this book will be a welcome addition: with strong, credible child characters and plenty of action, drama and emotion. This book is a real page turner and offers a welcome insight into refugee life which should be quite eye-opening for young Australian readers.  

 Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

Looking anew at Afghanistan life

shooting kabulTITLE = Shooting KABUL

AUTHOR  = N. H. SENZAI

GENRE = WAR, MULTICULTURALISM, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

There is an interesting play on words in the title of this book which only becomes apparent as the story unfolds. Most readers will probably assume that the title refers to the conflict that seems to have embroiled Kabul (capital of Afghanistan) for so long. And it is from this conflict that Fadi and his family are fleeing in the novel’s opening chapters. Unfortunately in the rush and confusion of their departure, Fadi’s 6 year old sister, Mariam, is left behind and every member of the family seems to blame themselves for this loss, none more so than Fadi. They hope and pray that Mariam has made it across the border into one of the refugee camps in Pakistan. So when the family is finally resettled in California and Fadi hears of a photo competition with first prize as a trip to India, which borders on Pakistan, Fadi sees it as his chance to redeem himself. He hopes that by winning the competition he can find a path back to Mariam.

So “shooting Kabul” becomes as much about Fadi taking photos of his new home in the US as it is about guns firing in Afghanistan. And this central story is played out against the backdrop of growing tensions in America – because as the family anxiously awaits news of Mariam, the 9/11 attacks occur in New York and this brings ethnic tension to the forefront of their lives. Fadi must battle against racial bullying at school whilst worrying about the US retaliation against Afghanistan at home.

This is a sensitive and thoughtful book which intrduces young readers to a different perspective on some international events, particularly the role of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in the history and politics of Afghanistan. A sense of compassion and tolerance breathes through the story which is enlivened by Fadi’s struggle to find his sister and peace for himself.

Recommended (dma) ****