In Pakistan, child labor is a horrifying but common occurrence. Seven hundred thousand children are subject to unspeakable slave labor conditions, many of them literally chained to their rug-making looms. This story, translated from the Italian, is a fictionalized account of a real boy, Iqbal, whose courage and bravery provides hope for a better way of life. The story is narrated by a young girl named Fatima, who works for an evil carpet maker. The only path to freedom for these children is to work very hard and very fast, erasing the debt that their families have accumulated. Yet after four years the debt seems to grow no smaller. When Iqbal comes to live and work at the carpet maker's shop, his defiance and strong will infect the other children. Iqbal runs away but is recaptured quickly. His punishment is to spend six days in "the tomb," an old cellar that barely admits light. Iqbal runs away again, and this time locates authorities who liberate the children and punish the shop owner for his illegal activities. Iqbal becomes known worldwide for his tireless fight against child labor, giving speeches and traveling to America. We live shielded and sheltered, our eyes closed to atrocities and inhumanities. This book will open eyes. Iqbal was murdered in his hometown on Easter Sunday, 1995. 2003 (orig. 2001), Atheneum Books, Ages 8 to 12.
Gr 4-7-Thirteen-year-old Iqbal Masih was murdered in his Pakistani village in April, 1995, a few months after he had received an international prize and traveled to Sweden and the United States, speaking about his six years as a bonded child in Lahore carpet factories. The murderers-perhaps part of the "Carpet Mafia"-have never been caught. In smoothly translated prose, D'Adamo retells the boy's story through the eyes of a fictional coworker. Also sold into servitude to pay her father's debt, Fatima worked in Hussain Khan's carpet factory for three years and had forgotten almost everything about her previous life. She had grown used to the long hours, the scanty rations, the heat, and the cramped quarters of a life spent tying carpet knots and sleeping beside her loom. She and the others in the workshop are stunned when Iqbal appears and tells them that their debts will never be paid. He tries to convince the children that their situations can change and he escapes to the market where he hooks up with members of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front. Fatima doesn't come alive as a character in her own right, but the situation and setting are made clear in this novel. Readers cannot help but be moved by the plight of these youngsters. This thinly disguised biography makes little effort to go beyond the known facts of Iqbal's life. Nonetheless, his achievements were astounding, and this readable book will certainly add breadth to most collections.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This profoundly moving story is all the more impressive because of its basis in fact. Although the story is fictionalized, its most harrowing aspects are true: "Today, more than two hundred million children between the ages of five and seventeen are ‘economically active' in the world." Iqbal Masih, a real boy, was murdered at age 13. His killers have never been found, but it's believed that a cartel of ruthless people overseeing the carpet industry, the "Carpet Mafia," killed him. The carpet business in Pakistan is the backdrop for the story of a young Pakistani girl in indentured servitude to a factory owner, who also "owned" the bonds of 14 children, indentured by their own families for sorely needed money. Fatima's first-person narrative grips from the beginning and inspires with every increment of pride and resistance the defiant Iqbal instills in his fellow workers. Although he was murdered for his efforts, Iqbal's life was not in vain; the accounts here of children who were liberated through his and activist adults' efforts will move readers for years to come. (Fiction. 10-14)