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The breadwinner Paperback – Sep 1 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books Ltd; Reprint edition (Sept. 1 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0888994168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0888994165
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana has rarely been outdoors. Barred from attending school, shopping at the market, or even playing in the streets of Kabul, the heroine of Deborah Ellis's engrossing children's novel The Breadwinner is trapped inside her family's one-room home. That is, until the Taliban hauls away her father and Parvana realizes that it's up to her to become the "breadwinner" and disguise herself as a boy to support her mother, two sisters, and baby brother. Set in the early years of the Taliban regime, this topical novel for middle readers explores the harsh realities of life for girls and women in modern-day Afghanistan. A political activist whose first book for children, Looking for X, dealt with poverty in Toronto, Ellis based The Breadwinner on the true-life stories of women in Afghan refugee camps.

In the wily Parvana, Ellis creates a character to whom North American children will have no difficulty relating. The daughter of university-educated parents, Parvana is thoroughly westernized in her outlook and responses. A pint-sized version of Offred from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Parvana conceals her critique of the repressive Muslim state behind the veil of her chador. Although the dialogue is occasionally stilted and the ending disappointingly sketchy, The Breadwinner is essential reading for any child curious about ordinary Afghans. Like so many books and movies on the subject, it is also eerily prophetic. "Maybe someone should drop a big bomb on the country and start again," says a friend of Parvana's. "'They've tried that,' Parvana said, 'It only made things worse.'" (Ages 9 to 12) --Lisa Alward

From Publishers Weekly

Ellis (Looking for X) bases her contemporary novel on refugee stories about the oppressive rule of Afghanistan by the Taliban. Eleven-year-old Parvana must masquerade as a boy to gain access to the outside world and support her dwindling family. Parvana's brother was killed years earlier by a land mine explosion and, for much of the story, her father is imprisoned, leaving only her mother, older sister and two very young siblings. The Taliban laws require women to sheathe themselves fully and ban girls from attending school or going out unescorted; thus, Parvana's disguise provides her a measure of freedom and the means to support her family by providing a reading service for illiterates. There are some sympathetic moments, as when Parvana sees the effect on her mother when she wears her dead brother's clothes and realizes, while reading a letter for a recently widowed Taliban soldier, that even the enemy can have feelings. However, the story's tensions sometimes seem forced (e.g., Parvana's own fear of stepping on land mines). In addition, the narrative voice often feels removed "After the Soviets left, the people who had been shooting at the Soviets decided they wanted to keep shooting at something, so they shot at each other" taking on a tone more akin to a disquisition than compelling fiction. However, the topical issues introduced, coupled with this strong heroine, will make this novel of interest to many conscientious teens. Ages 10-12. (Apr.) Women for Women in Afghanistan, dedicated to the education of Afghan girls in refugee camps in Pakistan.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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By A Customer on Jan. 31 2003
Format: Paperback
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis is the story of an eleven-year-old girl, Parvana, who lives in Afghanistan under the oppressive rule of the Taliban. After her father's imprisonment (for having a foreign education), she must disguise herself as a boy in order to safely leave the bombed out apartment she shares with her mother and siblings and be her family's "breadwinner".
While the plot is based on stories from the author's interviews with Afghan women in refugee camps, the reader senses that the story is little more than a stringing together of incidents. The characters are so underdeveloped that, even though one is surely sympathetic to their horrible situation, it is difficult to feel an emotional attatchment to any of them, even Parvana. If there is value in reading this book it is that the horrors of Taliban rule, as recounted in the lives of Parvana and her family, serve to remind us that we must never allow any group that seeks to limit the freedom of others to gain power.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Accomplished actress Rita Wolf ably reads "The Breadwinner," an affecting story of childhood in a repressive land.
As difficult as it may be for those of us who live in a free country to imagine, there are parts of the world where women and girls are not allowed to leave the confines of their homes without a man, and they must wear clothing that covers every part of their bodies. A bizarre look back at some nether region? No, it is a way of life in Taliban ruled Afghanistan.
Parvana, an 11-year-old girl, lives with her family in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan during the days when the Taliban held sway. Her home is one room in a bomb damaged apartment building.
Parvana's father, a former history teacher, now earns the family's living by sitting on a blanket in the marketplace and reading correspondence for those who cannot read or write. While the pittance he earns is negligible, it is something. That is taken away when he is arrested. The charge? He has a foreign education.
Now, there is no one to earn a living for the family or even to leave the house to shop for food.
Before long it is evident there is only one solution if the family is to survive - Parvana must disguise herself as a boy and become the family's breadwinner.
Listeners will be astounded at the strength and courage displayed by Parvana and, quite possibly, be reminded of the bravery evidenced by thousands of youngsters in ravaged countries. "The Breadwinner" is, indeed a sobering story. It is also an uplifting tale of stamina and strength in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles.
- Gail Cooke
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Format: Paperback
In The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis tries very hard to describe the situation in Afghanistan in a manner comprehensible by a North American child. Unfortunately, she tries too hard. The family depicted, although portrayed with careful characterization, reads like a North American family pasted into the foreign setting. As a previous reviewer noted, no mention of Islam is ever made, either in describing the day to day life of the family or in describing anything at all in the city.
The historical background is sketchy at best -- too dry to interest a young child reader, and too vague and inaccurate (with incorrect dates and no attention given to motivations or historical backgrounds of the participants in Afghanistan's endless war) to be a useful source for an older YA reader attempting to learn about the region. Often given in blocks of exposition rather than mixed into the dialogue and thoughts of the characters, it melds poorly with the story.
The story itself rambles in several directions but never quite reaches any of them despite a promising beginning. Characters come and go or, in some cases such as the mysterious window woman, are hinted at but never revealed. If the author is attempting to represent the confusion and chaos of living through war, she has done an excellent job, but I believe she has done so at the cost of ignoring her format -- a novel for young children who would most likely find a clear beginning, middle, and ending more engaging and easier to follow.
The Breadwinner is a slightly less than average book that offers oversimplification of complex issues without making up for this lack in the departments of plot or quality writing. Like other books written about Afghanistan, it is experiencing a surge of increased attention in the post 9/11 world, but I worry for any who see it as an accurate description of the country and not, as it is intended, as a simple story.
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Format: Hardcover
Life for women under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is not the stuff of which happy children's books are made. There is no happy ending here, regardless of the obstacles which are overcome, because the real-life ending has not yet come.
This book, while fiction, is the result of interviews with women who escaped from Kabul and who were living in camps in Pakistan, including one mother who disguised her daughter as a boy. The setting is true to time and place as it captures life for one family in one short period of time. (Ellis is donating the book sales to an organization dedicated to educating girls in refugee camps.)
It is a simple story, and engaging, as the reader follows the daily life of a fictional family as they struggle to survive the imprisonment of the father. His absence from the home means that they no longer have food, or communication outside the home because the female members of the family cannot go out unescorted by a male. Parvana, who is pre-adolescent, surrenders her long hair to help her family, and disguised as a boy earns a little money by selling things from their home or reading for the largely illiterate population. Thus she is able to shop for food. Her bravery is the focal point of the story and the reader is reminded of the courage and strength of children everywhere who survive against incredible odds.
Ellis has done well to write this as a story for children/young adults. While she doe not gloss over the hard parts of life in Kabul under the Taliban with executions, dismemberment, and imprisonment without a trial or a public charge neither does she dwell on them at length. Being without food or a father is hard enough for one story; living in fear adds more trauma.
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