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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kids of Kabul:Living Bravely Through a Never-ending War. Written by Deborah Ellis. Groundwood, 2012. $15.95 ages 12 and up

"It gets very dark in our house at night, and sometimes I get afraid. When you hear things in the dark and you can't see what they are, anybody would be afraid. It doesn't mean I'm not brave. But if someone shoots a gun or there is yelling or a cat screams, it can get scary. When I get scared I try to think of football or I practice my English."

It has been ten years since Deborah Ellis wrote her Breadwinner trilogy, bringing to her readers the plight of children in war-torn Afghanistan. Now, she has returned to this ravaged country to listen to the children about what the war has meant to them. What has happened to them since the Taliban lost power more than ten years ago?

Each entry begins with an introduction written by the author to detail some of the issues that face the children with whom she spoke: poverty, health care, the position that women hold within their society, education. There are twenty voices, and the children range in age from 10 to 17. Readers in North America will be surprised at the stories they have to tell.

Following the introductory paragraphs, the children speak about their lives. As we listen to their voices we become aware of how their daily lives are affected by the ongoing turmoil in their country:

"I am lucky though, because my mother stands up to him on this matter. She tells me to go to school, to study hard and make a good future for us.
My mother never had the chance to go to school. She cannot read or write. She has no experience of these things. But she knows how hard her life is, and she thinks that education might be the way to an easier life."   (Karima, 14)

The stories are diverse, and informative for those who share them. Some are heartbreaking, others are hopeful. Shabona makes a very interesting (and perhaps frightening) point when she asks:

"Will there be another war? We hope not! Afghanistan has had too much war. If war has to happen, let it happen somewhere else. Do you have war in Canada? Maybe it is your turn, then."

There is much for us to ponder when we hear their stories. I think that this would be a book worthy of sharing in a middle years classroom, allowing it to encourage discussion and for some, further reading.

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