Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Name Is Parvana - Deborah Ellis

Title: My Name Is Parvana (4th the The Breadwinner series)
Author: Deborah Ellis
Publisher: Groundwood Books, 2012 (Hardover)
Length: 198 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Started: October 10, 2012
Finished: October 17, 2012



On a military base in post-Taliban Afghanistan, American authorities have just imprisoned a teenaged girl found in a bombed-out school. The army major thinks she may be a terrorist working with the Taliban. The girl does not respond to questions in any language and remains silent, even when she is threatened, harassed and mistreated over several days. The only clue to her identity is a tattered shoulder bag containing papers that refer to people named Shauzia, Nooria, Leila, Asif, Hassan -- and Parvana.

In this long-awaited sequel to The Breadwinner Trilogy, Parvana is now fifteen years old. As she waits for foreign military forces to determine her fate, she remembers the past four years of her life. Reunited with her mother and sisters, she has been living in a village where her mother has finally managed to open a school for girls. But even though the Taliban has been driven from the government, the country is still at war, and many continue to view the education and freedom of girls and women with suspicion and fear.

As her family settles into the routine of running the school, Parvana, a bit to her surprise, finds herself restless and bored. She even thinks of running away. But when local men threaten the school and her family, she must draw on every ounce of bravery and resilience she possesses to survive the disaster that kills her mother, destroys the school, and puts her own life in jeopardy.

A riveting page-turner, Deborah Ellis's new novel is at once harrowing, inspiring and thought-provoking. And, yes, in the end, Parvana is reunited with her childhood friend, Shauzia.


I read the first book in this series, The Breadwinner, when I first began teaching and before starting this blog. The Breadwinner continues to be used in elementary school classrooms in my area for a good reason: the author is excellent and she writes about children persevering through adversity. The Breadwinner series got me hooked on Deborah Ellis as an author, I read anything she writes and usually end up loving it. 

The Breadwinner series tells the story of Parvana, a young girl living in Afghanistan with her family during the Taliban rule. The books follow through Parvana dressing as a boy in order to go out and support her family when her father is imprisoned (when women were not allowed outside unaccompanied), fleeing to Pakistan after she is separated from her mother and sisters, and living in a refugee camp in Pakistan not knowing if she'll be reunited with her family. 

The chapters in My Name Is Parvana alternate between two points of view: Parvana narrating in the present day where she is being held prisoner by American forces in Afghanistan suspected of being a terrorist, and her looking back over the past few years while she and her family operate a school for girls in post-Taliban Aghanistan. The book brings up several issues, mainly the hostile environment for women and girls in Afghanistan even after the Taliban, and the treatment of the Afghani people by American forces. Parvana's voice is wonderful here, very real and gripping, it's impossible to put the book down. 


Wonderful addition to The Breadwinner series due to its discussion of post-war Afghanistan and the issues that plague it, particularly concerning women and girls. Obviously there are sensitive topics here, so you'll likely want to discuss this with children as they read it depending on their age and maturity level. 

Thoughts on the cover:

I like the new cover redesigns that have come out recently, I like them so much better than the painting-style covers from when I first bought the books. The photo of the model as Parvana fits well with the flowery patterns (they almost seem like fabric?) above and below the image.

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