Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War

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Overview


Since its publication in 2000, hundreds of thousands of children all over the world have read and loved The Breadwinner. By reading the story of eleven-year-old Parvana and her struggles living under the terror of the Taliban, young readers came to know the plight of children in Afghanistan.

But what has happened to Afghanistan’s children since the fall of the Taliban in 2001? In 2011, Deborah Ellis went to Kabul to find out. She interviewed children who spoke about their lives...

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Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-ending War

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Overview


Since its publication in 2000, hundreds of thousands of children all over the world have read and loved The Breadwinner. By reading the story of eleven-year-old Parvana and her struggles living under the terror of the Taliban, young readers came to know the plight of children in Afghanistan.

But what has happened to Afghanistan’s children since the fall of the Taliban in 2001? In 2011, Deborah Ellis went to Kabul to find out. She interviewed children who spoke about their lives now. They are still living in a country torn apart by war. Violence and oppression still exist, particularly affecting the lives of girls, but the kids are weathering their lives with courage and optimism: "I was incredibly impressed by the sense of urgency these kids have — needing to get as much education and life experience and fun as they can, because they never know when the boom is going to be lowered on them again."
The two dozen or so children featured in the book range in age from ten to seventeen. Many are girls Deb met through projects funded by Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, the organization that is supported by royalties from The Breadwinner Trilogy. Parvana’s Fund provides grants towards education projects for Afghan women and children, including schools, libraries and literacy programs.

All royalties from the sale of Kids of Kabul will also go to Women for Women in Afghanistan.

Aftermatter includes a map, glossary, a short history of Afghanistan and suggestions for further reading/resources.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
During a 2011 visit to Kabul, Ellis (the Breadwinner trilogy) recorded the stories of 27 Afghan children, represented in this stirring collection. While some are from prosperous families, others live in desperate circumstances. One 14-year-old is in prison for running away to escape an arranged marriage; an 11-year-old begs in the streets. Unspeakable events are described matter-of-factly ("I don't know why the Taliban killed my family"). Yet the children's hope is undimmed. When they are permitted to study, they excel, and when they are given time and space, they heal: "And look at me now! I am sitting up straight, looking you in the eye and telling my story in a loud, clear voice." They have hope for their country, too: "But if all that can stop, Afghanistan will be great, because there are so many of us who want it to be great." The dichotomy between the speakers' traumatic lives and their essential childlike natures is especially moving: one girl talks about a rocket attack and sharing makeup with her friends in almost the same breath. It's a gritty, poignant, and intensely personal glimpse into the effects of war and poverty. Ages 12–up. (May)
From the Publisher

Winner of the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction

"This nuanced portrayal of adolescence in a struggling nation refrains, refreshingly, from wallowing in tragedy tourism and overwrought handwringing." —Kirkus

"…sufficient historical context enriches the readers' understanding of the situation in Afghanistan."—CM Magazine

"It's a gritty, poignant, and intensely personal glimpse into the effects of war and poverty."—Publishers Weekly

"Sometimes when I’m playing football with my friends, a man will stop and watch us . . . and I think, 'Maybe that’s my father.' I play extra well then, so that he’ll take me away with him. — Mustala, 13"
— from the book

From the Publisher
"This nuanced portrayal of adolescence in a struggling nation refrains, refreshingly, from wallowing in tragedy tourism and overwrought handwringing." —Kirkus

"…sufficient historical context enriches the readers' understanding of the situation in Afghanistan."—CM Magazine

"It's a gritty, poignant, and intensely personal glimpse into the effects of war and poverty."—Publishers Weekly

"Sometimes when I’m playing football with my friends, a man will stop and watch us . . . and I think, 'Maybe that’s my father.' I play extra well then, so that he’ll take me away with him. — Mustala, 13"
— from the book

Children's Literature - Karen Leggett
News stories tend to lump women and children together as the defenseless victims of war and violence. Deborah Ellis introduces readers to children who are individuals with names, personalities, hopes and dreams even in the midst of unimaginable tragedy and horror. I became so completely engaged in their stories that I missed my subway stop and was late for work, absurdly inconsequential compared to the devastation in these children's lives. Twenty percent of all children born in Afghanistan die before they reach their fifth birthday. Anan made it to 16 but by then he had already watched fifteen members of his family be killed by the Taliban. On the other hand, another child, Abdul, has a good memory of the Taliban bringing food to families in need. There is a photo of each child and a short description of the circumstances that brought the child to an orphanage or refugee camp. This introductory information coupled with each personal story told in the first person provide a valuable insight into the effects of war on children—children who in spite of it all express faith in themselves, pride in their country and faith in their future. Reviewer: Karen Leggett
Kirkus Reviews
The author of the Breadwinner trilogy turns from fictional Afghani children to real ones. The 10- to 17-year-olds interviewed for this collection mostly don't remember the Taliban's fall more than a decade ago, but they can't help but be shaped by the damage the Taliban did to their country. In a country that's been at war for more than 30 years, childhood is very different--or is it? After an over-earnest opening, with teens who have overcome great hardship and want only to succeed in school, this collection diversifies. Parwais has never been to school and wants only to keep his warm, dry job as a museum cleaner. Palwasha, who studies computer science at university, plays for the Afghan Women's National Football Team and aims "to become the best referee in Afghanistan." Fareeba doesn't speak for herself; the mental-hospital inmate has a cognitive disability and no access to the medical or educational opportunities that might help her find language. Angela, meanwhile, attends American University in Kabul and hopes to attend Brown. One girl is imprisoned for fleeing a forced child marriage, while another's mother is a member of Parliament; one boy's damaged by a landmine, and another's proud to be a Scout. The most cutting words are those of 14-year-old Shabona: "Do you have war in Canada? Maybe it is your turn, then." Clear introductions to each young person provide historical, legal and social context. This nuanced portrayal of adolescence in a struggling nation refrains, refreshingly, from wallowing in tragedy tourism and overwrought handwringing. Necessary. (Nonfiction. 10-14)
Children's Literature - Heather Welsh
Even though the Taliban has been overthrown for some time, the Afghan people still face great danger every day. There are still millions of Afghans living in refugee camps in unsanitary conditions. In the capital city of Kabul, young people are more fortunate than most with limited access to education and sports. During her trip to Kabul in 2011, Deborah Ellis conducted interviews with children ranging in age from ten to seventeen. Many of the interviews involve the struggles young women and girls face daily, such as not being allowed to get an education, families being torn apart by the ongoing violence, and not enough medicine or medical professionals to treat even the simplest medical conditions. Other interviews show the struggle of young men having to run large impoverished families because their fathers are either dead or missing. In order to pay for the family, children have to take dangerous jobs that require long hours of work. Ellis does a magnificent job of weaving Afghan history into the interviews so that the reader has enough background knowledge to better understand the interviews themselves. Her passion for helping Afghans through her involvement in the organization Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan shows throughout the book. Reviewer: Heather Welsh
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—With characteristic insight, compassion, and journalistic skill, Ellis presents brief interviews, collected during a 2011 visit to Afghanistan, with 25 young people, ages 10 to 17. Each interview is introduced with a photograph and helpful historical and cultural background information that provides context for the reflections. The diverse, candid voices include a land-mine victim, a child bride, orphans, a foreign-exchange student, a daughter imprisoned with her mother, an aspiring artist, a football (soccer) player, a museum worker, and girl and boy scouts. Despite family tragedies, economic deprivation, female oppression, and years of warfare and violence, these young people express remarkable hope for the future and a belief that life will get better. Their determination to get an education and make a positive contribution is inspiring. Readers who possess only a vague knowledge of the distant war and life in Afghanistan will find these stories compelling and motivating. An annotated list of support organizations and Ellis's personal commitment to social justice and peace may spur readers to learn more and become involved. A valuable, informative resource.—Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554981816
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 293,511
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 800L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Deborah Ellis is the author of over eighteen books, many of them bestsellers worldwide. She lives in Simcoe, Ontario.
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Read an Excerpt


I used to think if only I could read, then I would be happy. But now I just want more! I want to read about poets and Afghan history and science and about places outside Afghanistan. — Faranoz, 14

When I miss my family, so much that my chest hurts and everything hurts, I try to calm myself by thinking of my future, because I think it could be a good future, if no one comes in and starts killing again. Look at what I’ve learned in just a few years! When I first came here [to this school for child workers] I was afraid all the time. I had too many dark, sad things in my head. I thought there would never be room there for anything else. Then I learned how to read and write and even to use the computer. So now I have many good things to think about. — Aman, 16

I try to remember that my house is not me. Where we live it is very, very bad. We have no clean sheets, no beds. We sleep on the floor. We try to keep it clean but there is mud when it rains and dust when there is no rain. We have no electricity, just a little oil lamp that we light to do our homework, but we must work quickly and not waste the oil. — Sharifa, 14

I live with my grandfather and grandmother. We are really poor. My grandparents don’t work. We have no money for soap, so I am often dirty and wearing dirty clothes. I would like to be better dressed, so when people see me coming they will think, “Oh, this boy is important, look at his clothes, he must be somebody special.” No one will think that of me if I don’t have nice clothes. — Mustala, 13

I was young when my father left, maybe five or six. Sometimes when I’m playing football with my friends, a man will stop and watch us or will walk by really slowly, and I think, “Maybe that’s my father.” I play extra well then, so that he’ll take me away with him. He won’t want a son who is no good at football. — Mustala, 13

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