Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
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.) FYI: All royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to Women for Women in Afghanistan, dedicated to the education of Afghan girls in refugee camps in Pakistan. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-For 11-year-old Parvana and her family, survival in war-torn Afghanistan is difficult. The Taliban have decreed that women stay inside their homes, unless completely covered by a long, tentlike garment with a veil over the face. Girls can no longer go to school. Parvana's only relief is accompanying her father to the market where he works as a letter writer and sells family possessions. After he is arrested and taken away, Parvana becomes the breadwinner, dressing as a boy and taking over her father's job. One day, she recognizes a school friend, similarly disguised. The two team up to dig human bones to sell to make extra money, always fearful that their secret will be revealed and that they, too, will be imprisoned or worse. After Parvana's older sister, younger siblings, and mother leave for the north, Parvana learns that the town they went to has been taken over by the Taliban in a bloody battle. There seems to be no hope, until, unaccountably, her father appears, released from prison, and they decide to leave Kabul in search of the rest of their family. The author's sympathy with the women of Afghanistan is evident; her outrage at their treatment makes the single moment when Parvana sees a Talib as human, with feelings, stand out. The girl's courage and wit are admirable; she comes alive as a character far more than Kabul comes alive as a place. The book lacks the details about this region and culture that would help unfamiliar readers understand that world more clearly.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 5^-7. Ever since the fundamentalist group Taliban secured power in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Parvana and her family have suffered. The group's relentless oppression makes it impossible for the women of the family to leave the house without their father. When Parvana's elderly father is arrested on the grounds that he is a scholar, the women are trapped in their cramped apartment. Eventually, running out of food and hope, Parvana dresses as a boy and becomes the family's breadwinner, doing whatever is necessary to keep the family alive--from reading letters for the illiterate to digging up and selling the bones of her ancestors. Unfortunately, the novel never deals with the religious facets of Afghan life, failing to explain that the Taliban sees itself, essentially, as a religious group. Nonetheless, The Breadwinner is a potent portrait of life in contemporary Afghanistan, showing that powerful heroines can survive even in the most oppressive and sexist social conditions. --John Green
Horn Book Review
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Parvana has been unable to go to school or leave the house without a male relative. When her father is taken away to jail, however, Parvana must seek work disguised as a boy in order to support her family. The obstacles faced by women under the repressive regime are convincingly and sympathetically portrayed as Parvana's story unfolds. From HORN BOOK Fall 2001, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.