The breadwinner Paperback – Sep 1 2000
|New from||Used from|
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
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. See all Product Description
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
My son's grade 3 teacher is making her class read this book, with the help of me as the parent.
I think it would be a good book for kids OVER the age of 12, NOT 8/9 year old,... Read more
This story was interesting, to be sure. However, I have to disagree with the reference to 'providing insight to culture' comments. Read morePublished on March 20 2009 by Angela L. Meservy
I really didn't know much about Afghanistan or the history until I read This book... I highly recommend it!Published on Nov. 15 2007 by Cinzia Genuardi
I taught this book to my sixth grade class last year-an easy read technically but mature ideas, but easily 90% of the students loved it so much that I had to order the next... Read morePublished on July 19 2004
I really liked the book The Breadwinner. It had some exciting moments that just made me want to keep reading. Read morePublished on May 28 2004
This story takes place in Afghanistan. It's an amazing book. It's so realalistic that you're imagining it in your head. The main Character is Parvana. Read morePublished on April 30 2004
A friend reccomended the book to me after he had read it. When I read the back my nose was upturned and I was so not turned on by the sound of it, but he insisted that I read it. Read morePublished on Dec 7 2003
While Parvana is an engaging character at times, this book and it's sequel lack the rich description which is needed to help children from more developed countries understand the... Read morePublished on Sept. 12 2003
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Children's Books > Geography & Cultures > Explore the World
- Books > Children's Books > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Difficult Discussions > Violence
- Books > Children's Books > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Friendship, Social Skills & School Life > Girls & Women
- Books > Children's Books > Literature & Fiction
- Books > Teens > Social Issues > Violence