Review Blog

May 05 2014

Naveed by John Heffernan

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Through My Eyes series. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN: 9781743312483.
I would highly recommend this title and the whole series thus far! Following the death of his much loved father, Naveed, a young Afghani boy, shoulders the responsibility of caring for his mother and younger sister, Anoosheh. His young sister had lost her legs as the result of an exploding landmine. Despite their lowly income and existence, the family members display strong ethics and positive natures with honesty, hard work, generosity of spirit, loyalty and resilience being traits they have in abundance. In order to provide the family with food and pay the rent for their meagre accommodation, Naveed willingly works for a variety of employers, even continuing despite them taking advantage of him and underpaying him for his impeccable work. He maintains a positive attitude and work ethic, often reflecting on the sayings and teachings of his father. Thankfully, not everyone with whom he interacts is as predatory as the gang that accosts him in the street and he manages to find some allies. Amongst his allies is a dog that he names Nasera, and the pair becomes inseparable. When he develops a friendship with Jake, an Australian soldier, Naveed and his extraordinary dog are offered a job which seems almost too good to be true. There is the possibility they could become a valuable team, assisting in making Afghanistan a safer place. Will they succeed? Whose plans could be foiled through their actions if they take on their proposed role?
Through My Eyes is one series on which I expect to continue to heap praise! With these titles, younger students can be introduced to the realities and atrocities of war. Amongst these realities are weapons, suicide bombers, IEDs, warlords, gangs of thieves and the unfair treatment of both the poor and females, particularly widows, by the male Afghani. Although containing plenty of aspects which could be considered confronting, these titles are more accessible to upper primary and secondary students as the protagonists are of a similar age to the readers.
Lyn White has used her experience working as a teacher librarian to create detailed and eminently useable teacher notes for each of the books in this series. Having heard her speak at the ASLA conference last year, I agree with her sentiment that both the books and teacher notes are truly a gift to all teachers. Teacher notes for Naveed can be found here. I have previously taught various units on war and conflict and believe these titles support any such unit brilliantly. Each of the Through My Eyes titles would be well received by older students in literature circles. Personally, in the primary school setting, I would prefer to be able to use them as the basis of a whole class unit, reading aloud and discussing various elements of the text and the information brought out in each. I believe this title could work well with any students from Year 5 and above but believe that perhaps the previous titles may be better suited to the slightly older classes.
Jo Schenkel

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