Basing the book on a true story, Winter tells how Afghani women resisted the Taliban and continued to teach their daughters in secret, home-based schools. An introduction, which can serve as a starting point for discussion with older readers, explains the differences in women’s lives before and after the Taliban seized control. The story itself addresses younger readers effectively.
When soldiers take Nasreen’s father away, her mother sets off in search for him and doesn’t return. Nasreen stops talking, and just sits, waiting. As her despair grows worse, her grandmother finally decides to risk taking her outside to a school for girls that she has heard about. As time passes, Nasreen still doesn’t speak. But after the winter break, she responds in a whisper to one of her classmates, and finally begins to smile and talk, and learn, and to find comfort in the discovery that her country was once filled with artists and writers and mystics, and that there was a bigger world outside. Winter’s beautiful illustrations work for story time, but a closer perusal provides an even deeper engagement with the text.