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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


****Parvana's Journey

by Deborah Ellis

Reviewed March 14, 2003.
Groundwood Books, Douglas & McIntyre, Toronto

Parvana’s Journey, is a sequel to The Breadwinner.  Both books are powerful, but disturbing to think that any child would have to live like this.

Set in Afghanistan under the Taliban, The Breadwinner told how Parvana had to dress as a boy in order to provide for her family while her father was in jail for having studied in England.  At the end of the book, she and her father set off from Kabul to look for her mother, sister and brother.  Her family had been in Mazar-e-Sharif when the Taliban took over that part of Afghanistan as well.

At the start of Parvana’s Journey, her father dies.  Now Parvana must travel on her own, try to survive, and to find her mother.  Along the way, she finds a baby whose mother is dead, and an obnoxious boy with one leg.  Later they meet a girl who lives near a minefield with her grandmother, who doesn’t move or speak.

American bombs start falling.  Yes, we can see it would be wonderful to get rid of the Taliban, but meanwhile the bombs do damage.  (Parvana doesn’t know they’re American bombs.  She only knows that things are exploding.)

This is a terribly sad book, because it’s horrible to think of a child living through such times, being forced to take responsibility for other children.  However, it is a well-written book and helps the reader understand something of what it’s like in Afghanistan for the ordinary people.  The author does manage to end the book with hope, and tells us in an afterword that one good sign is that schools have opened again in Afghanistan.

I read The Breadwinner shortly after war had begun in Afghanistan, so I rejoiced that the oppression of the Taliban on people like Parvana would be ending.  This book made me face the fact that life is not so simple.

This book may not be completely pleasant, but it is still well worth reading.

Reader comment:  Amanda gives this book 5 stars, saying, "This Book Rocks."

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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