It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading: The Breadwinner series

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee At Teach Mentor Texts

I love it when a student comes rushing into my classroom waving a new book she or he has just discovered and now wants me to read ASAP.  That is exactly what happened a  week ago when Sarah raced in on Monday morning waving Deborah Ellis’ award winning  “The Breadwinner.”   I promised Sarah that I would read book by week’s end…and I did, but Elllis’ writing was so powerful that I had to run out and purchase the rest of the series as well.  Sarah was thrilled, and so was I – this is a wonderful collection for our library and each book is now out in circulation and being enjoyed thoroughly.
The Breadwinner stories are set in war ravaged Afghanistan, where the Taliban have taken control of some areas and American soldiers battle against them on land and from the sky.  Parvana’s family has lost everything, but they still have each other and together they manage to scrape by. Then Parvana’s father is taken away by the Taliban, and she must pretend to be a boy so that can continue to make a living for her family doing her father’s job as a letter writer and reader.  But nothing stays constant in Afghanistan – and the first two books follows Parvana’s journey from one catastrophe to the next: she is separated from her family, rescues abandoned children, and moves from one area of devastation to another in search of her mother and sisters.
Mud City is the story of Parvana’s best friend Shauzia, who fled Afghanistan for a better life elsewhere, only to find herself on her own and struggling to survive on the streets of Peshawar, Pakistan.  Enduring harrowing experiences of her own, Shauzia is rescued by the Red Crescent…and then makes the brave decision to return with this humanitarian group to the country of her birth, and do what she can to help the thousands in need just across the border.
My Name is Parvana picks up the narrative some time later.  Parvana has been captured by American soldiers who suspect her of being a terrorist. Parvana refuses to speak; she remembers the events of the past four years when she was reunited with what was left of her family and helped them to open a school.  The Taliban threaten death and destruction unless the school closes down – and they carry through with their promise.  But the American soldiers believe that Parvana was somehow connected to this event, and so Parvana sits alone in jail, until a dramatic bombing of the base forces Parvana to risk her life once again.

These are beautifully written books that capture the stark and battle scarred  landscape of Afghanistan and the brave struggles of its ordinary citizens who try desperately to go on with their daily lives.  Ellis does not flinch from describing the havoc that war wreaks, nor does she avoid writing about the brutality of the Taliban.  But her characters are strong and determined women who inspire great admiration. This is an important series to have in our classrooms, to read and to discuss.  My students hear about the war in Afghanistan  mostly from television news accounts, and it all seems so foreign and far away to them.  The Breadwinner series brings the war home, and it is an important reminder of the innocent people who are caught in the epicenter of a war that has gone on for far too long.

Here is a short biography of Deborah Ellis:

And here she is reading from one of her works:

Most of the royalties for these bestselling books go to Canadian Women for Women of Afghanistan, and their website provides information about ways in which readers can become active in the humanitarian cause  which Deborah Ellis has become such a force in.


13 thoughts on “It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading: The Breadwinner series

  1. There is also a nonfiction book, Kids from Kabul, that is very interesting to read along with this series. Our 6th grade does The Breadwinner as a unit novel, and the students always enjoy it.

  2. I loved The Breadwinner but haven't read the others. Actually, I didn't know there were 4 of them now. Thanks for sharing and reminding me about these books.

  3. I read The Breadwinner, but now I want to add the others to my list. When I'm back at school, I'll pull it and print your review to insert inside. Thanks!

  4. I so love this series but haven't read the final book. Thank you for such a wonderful post detailing this series. I have recommended this series to many children in the last few years and they always love it. Now I'm looking for the final title!

  5. I have The Breadwinner but did not know that there were other books in this series. Thank you for sharing these books and that website. It is definitely a title I will dig out to booktalk and I will be on the lookout for the rest of the titles.

  6. The Breadwinner looks good. How have I not stumbled upon your blog before????? Thanks for visiting mine today. :)Would you be able to add an email subscription button to your blog so I could follow you that way?????:)Shannon

  7. Oh Tara, these are exactly what I need for the SS curriculum that I am working on! I'm putting them in my Amazon cart, as well as Kids from Kabul (thank you Mrs. Yingling!) I'm in awe at how much you read and wrote and made a new dessert! I took the day off!

  8. Hi Tara, this is the first time that I've heard of this series. I've always been intrigued by Afghanistan. I have just recently had a visitor from Kabul – she works for the Canadian embassy and she spent a day here with my family in Singapore. It truly is a whole new world out there. Glad to know more about it through this series. Will definitely look for these four and pin it in my board so I won't forget.

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