Review Blog

Oct 30 2012

Parvana's promise by Deborah Ellis

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 9781743312988.
(Ages 11+) Recommended. War. Afghanistan. People will welcome the latest book in the group of books about Afghani Parvana, wrenched from her home through war, surviving in the desert and then a refugee camp, keeping several children younger than herself safe. But when she is found by the Americans in the rubble of a school where explosives have been buried, she refuses to answer any questions. They believe the worst and incarcerate her. In her cell, she roams back in her mind exposing for the reader the grim life she has led and her indomitable belief that she will survive.
Ellis does not hold back in her contempt for the Taliban and those still adhering to their medieval beliefs and the American soldiers who see everything around them in black and white. It is these soldiers who make Parvana stand for hours on end, deride, intimidate shout, and threaten her, eat in front of her not offering any food, all to try and elicit a response, as they believe that she is a terrorist
In alternate chapters we hear of Parvana's time at her mother's school, learning herself but also teaching others, with growing awareness of the threats being made against the teachers, the students and the school. When the school is bombed, Parvana is taken by the Americans and refuses to talk, but when she hears an American soldier crying beneath her cell window, she writes a poem she has learnt and drops it down for him to read. The bombing of the encampment sees her at last being able to escape, but a badly wounded soldier demands her first aid skills.
A page turner as all the books in this series are, this one will endear a new generation of readers to the story of Parvana and Shauzia, as well as educate the readers about the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban can still threaten, kidnap, torture and kill. Many schools will be happy to have this as a class set.
Fran Knight

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