Review Blog

Mar 06 2009

Mahtab's Story by Libby Gleeson

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2008. ISBN978 174175 334 9
(Ages 11+) In the middle of the night, Mahtab's parents wake her with her clothes ready at the end of her bed. She must dress quickly and quietly if they are to escape from their Taliban controlled city. So begins a hectic and heart stopping journey across the mountains into Pakistan where they wait for 8 months for news of their father who had gone ahead. Taking a plane to Malaysia and then Indonesia they then board a boat heading for Darwin. The journey is perilous and they hesitate to think of what may lie ahead.
In its bare bones, the story is one of many such stories: escaping a hated ruling junta, putting their lives into the hands of others, separation, hunger and even death, that make up the history of Australia. But this story is very recent, these people, vilified by a former government, now make up a growing part of our population and their stories, part of our consciousness and history, must be told. Gleeson interviewed a number of girls whose experiences mirror that of Mahtab, to get the story right, and she has succeeded brilliantly. The emotions evoked in this book will stay with the reader, encouraging sympathy, acceptance and tolerance.
Along with Rosanne Hawke's vivid story, Soraya the Storyteller, and Morris Gelitzman's Boy Overboard, and Deborah Ellis' wonderful series about Parvana and her friends, these novels give our students an opening into another world, far apart from their own, and reflect the stories of some of our students' lives, enabling us to develop understanding and empathy.
Fran Knight

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