Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter

Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, 2009.     ISBN 9781416994374

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.

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Filed under ***** A must read, Grades 1-2, Grades 3 - 4

Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson

mahtabAllen & Unwin, 2009     ISBN: 9781741753349

Mahtab, an Afghani girl, flees with her family one night to escape the Taliban. Their goal is to reach Australia. They are hidden under a load of furniture and other items in the back of an old pick-up truck. Their father has devised an innocuous noise to warn them to be perfectly still and quiet if they are stopped at a checkpoint.

After a long, uncomfortable journey, they finally arrive in Pakistan, where they will wait until the next stage of their voyage can be arranged. Weeks go by with no action, and finally, Mahtab’s father decides to set out ahead of them and send for them once he has reached Australia. After eight months of waiting, they must flee again when rumors of the Taliban in the area arise.

Their next stop is to Malaysia, by plane, an experience new, and frightening to all of them. In Malaysia, they are housed in a nice hotel until a boat can be arranged to take them on the final leg of the journey. Unfortunately, the ship is less than sea-worthy, and begins to take on water. And when they draw near to Australia, a large ship approaches and orders them back. Their small ship turns away, and the captain makes plans to land elsewhere once it is dark.

Upon setting foot on land, Mahtab rejoices that they’ve made it and that they’re free, only to discover that they are to be interred in a prison-like refugee camp until each of their cases can be dealt with. Up until this time, Mahtab has been her mother’s right hand, cheerful, and keeping the younger children entertained. But now she loses heart as the months pass by waiting for the officials to find their father.

Inspired by a true story, this well-written book offers readers insight into the plight of refugees.

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Filed under *** A good read, Grades 5 - 6