Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Name is Parvanna (Deborah Ellis)

I love The Breadwinner series. I read it to my class when I was teaching Gr. 4. They loved The Breadwinner so much they made me read Parvanna's Journey next. It takes a long time to read those two books out loud. I made them read Mud City themselves, if they were interested, though. Most of them did. I had a class of 23 kids, 17 or which were boys. Many of them were from countries near Afghanistan. They were really taken by the story. Then when I taught Gr. 3 it happened again. Same thing. But these kids weren't so closely tied to those war torn countries. Yet, they were still as riveted. We read The Breadwinner. I tried to sell them on reading Parvanna's Journey themselves, but they wanted me to read it aloud. So we did. (I'm such a push over) Again, I made them pick up Mud City themselves if they wanted to continue. I would sure be willing to read My Name is Parvanna aloud to them even after reading the others aloud. This book brings everything back to the original story.

I worry about the things that happen in these books being too much for Gr. 3. They're recommended for ages 10 and up, so they're just on the edge, I guess.

This story stirs something inside of me that makes me want to do something to help women and children who are victims of war. Not sure what I can do though!

When I found out Deborah Ellis had written another book in the series I had to have it right away. Well, I had to put it on hold at the library right away. (One day I will buy all these wonderful books!)

I had to go tell my class from last year that another book is out. They, in turn, also had to go get it right away. I will return this one today so that some of them will get their hold. I can't wait to discuss it with them next time I am on supervision or run into them in the hallways.

This story is riveting. It makes me cry. It has moments when I feel like my world has been rocked, and I have to put it down for a moment to show some respect for what just happened in the story. It isn't a biography, but it is stuff that happens to hundreds of kid's in Afghanistan. It makes me shake my head at the atrocities of war. How can we justify that these things happen to families, to women, to children!

We can't.

We are so lucky the stories are being told.

My Name is Parvanna is the fourth book in The Breadwinner series. It tells the story of Paranna after meeting up again with her mother and her sisters. Parvanna is now 15 and her mother has started a school. They're faced with a lot of threats and persecution. Some people are not quite as brave as Parvanna and her mother. They persist and they bring light into people's lives in Afghanistan. That is, until the light is shut out.

The book starts off with Parvanna being in jail. The author intersperses a kind of flash back inbetween chapters of her jail experience to bring us up to speed on what has happened. It's an interesting writing style and it works well in this book.

Some parts that made me pause:

Parvanna is a smart girl and in prison she keeps herself self-disciplined by reciting times tables to herself, or by quoting parts of books. She steals a book from a guard and is faced with the dilemma of weather she should savor it by reading it slowly, or gobble as much as she can before it is taken away. Oh to appreciate the opportunity to read so much!

p. 129 At first she thought she would just read a chapter to make it last, but she decided not to bother rationing it. At any minute of the day, soldiers could come into her room and take everything away. They could move her to another jail. They could take her into the desert, shoot her and leave her body for the buzzards.

She decided to devour the book. The more she read, the more she would have in her mind to entertain herself the next time they made her stand in that horrible little office.

At one point her mother goes off to a meeting and is late coming home. Parvanna reflects on her life and the battles she has faced

p. 159 They sang just loud enough to keep their voices busy and not afraid.

Long after Asif curled up on his side and fell asleep, Parvana remained awake and watchful as the constellations traveled across the ksy, then faded into gray.

She could not remember a time when she did not believe she was on the edge of a disaster. Her life had gone from battle to battle, and she was never, ever sure that the future would not be terrifying. And just when it started to look like things were getting quiet and back to normal, her mother had to go to a meeting and did not come home on time.


Parvana's mother dies in this book. It is absolutely shocking the way it is told...but it seems so true to what happens in Afghanistan:

p. 169 She walked over to the body and drew back the cloth that covered her mother's head. She stared at the mess the men had made of her mother's face.

There was a note pinned to her mother's clothes.

This woman ran a school for evil girls.
Now she is dead. Her school will be closed.

In this bok Parvana and Shauzia meet up again. More must happen. I'm sure Deborah Ellis will be able to write another book. I hope she will! It ends in a way that just made me quietly close the book and weep for the people of Afghanistan:

p. 198 "So," Parvana said, "more of the same, then. More hunger, more fear and more work."

"This is Afghanistan," Shauzia said. "What do you want - a happy ending?"

You MUST read this book.
You MUST read this series.

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