In several passages of this novel for intermediate readers, eleven-year-old Parvana is surprised when a gift appears from nowhere on the blanket she has spread to sell family belongings in the market in Kabul, Afghanistan. One day there is a beautifully embroidered cloth, later a piece of candy, a handkerchief, a camel made of beads--all tossed by an unknown woman sequestered behind a blackened window. This book is itself such a gift: small, carefully made, and moving in its detail, simplicity, and grace. The Breadwinner addresses an issue that not only affects Afghanistan but is a cause for concern for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the U.S. State Department's group on International Women's Issues. Since 1994, when the Islamic Taliban gained political power in Afghanistan, women have been forbidden to leave their homes without wearing a burqa, a restrictive covering for the entire head and body, and without being accompanied by a mahram, a close male relative. Women and girls are banned from schools and from appearing on radio, television, or in public gatherings; windows are painted so that women cannot be seen from outside their homes. Deborah Ellis, a Toronto writer who is also a mental health counselor and women's rights and anti-war activist, visited Afghanistan to collect stories for Women of the Afghan War (Greenwood, 2000), an oral history for adults that relies on individual narratives to show the ways women's daily lives have been affected under Taliban rule. In The Breadwinner, Ellis builds on this wealth of information, distilling details to a single story and fusing it with the effective storytelling of her previous books for young readers:Looking for X (Groundwood, 2000) and Pick-Up Sticks (Groundwood, 2001), both of which feature strong female protagonists struggling in oppressive environments. What works in this novel, however, is not that it disguises a lesson in women's rights in the form of a story. In fact, one might read this book and be left with more questions than answers about the situation in Afghanistan. But the writing itself inspires the reader to care enough to want to learn more. We see Parvana as a typical middle child: competing with her sister for her parents' favor, resenting the easy life of the younger children, sulking a bit as she has to be prodded to fetch water. But as the situation becomes clearer, this typical childhood experience is rendered all the more horrifying. When her father is taken by authorities, Parvana must don her dead brother's clothes and try to earn a living for the family. She is called upon to do heroic acts-- digging for human bones that she can sell, witnessing a public hanging, and defying the laws that keep her mother and older sister at home--but she carries them out as a child would and offers her simple responses to the world that has changed around her. In her connections with Mrs. Weera (a former physical education teacher who comes to live with them when their mother is paralyzed with depression), with her friend Shauzia (a former classmate also disguised as a boy), and with the mysterious Window Woman, Parvana learns to rely on the strength of women's cooperation and combined power. She wonders, as the novel closes, about what will happen in twenty years: "Would she still be in Afghanistan? Would Afghanistan finally have peace? Would she go back to school, have a job, be married?" Ellis ends this novel hopefully, as the girl looks at the mountain her father has affectionately nicknamed Mount Parvana and feels that she is ready for the future, whatever it brings. She is not a real character, but she is fleshed out fully enough to make readers wonder where she is now, what is happening to the women behind the black windows and those who venture out in disguise. Ellis is donating all royalties from The Breadwinner to Women for Women in Afghanistan, an organization dedicated to educating Afghan girls in refugee camps in Pakistan. But her activism with this book goes beyond the financial returns it may provide for Afghan women: it takes on the significant issue of gender apartheid in Afghanistan by letting one individual's story be told with dignity, vivid detail, and a human voice. 2001, Groundwood, $15.95. Ages 10 to 12. Reviewer: Virginia Schaefer Carroll SOURCE: The Five Owls, September/October 2001 (Vol. 16, No. 1)
The Law of E. F. Huttonby John C. Maxwell
The Law of E. F. Hutton is about gaining respect as a leader. When Alan Greenspan speaks before Congress, everybody listens. When he prepares to make a statement on lending rates, the entire financial community stops what it is doing. Billy Graham gets a similar kind of respect because of his unquestionable integrity and lifetime of service. The Law of E./i>
The Law of E. F. Hutton is about gaining respect as a leader. When Alan Greenspan speaks before Congress, everybody listens. When he prepares to make a statement on lending rates, the entire financial community stops what it is doing. Billy Graham gets a similar kind of respect because of his unquestionable integrity and lifetime of service. The Law of E. F. Hutton reveals itself in just about every kind of situation. In this study, you will find how a real leader holds the power, not just the position.
- Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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