Review Blog

Mar 16 2009

Mahtab's story by Libby Gleeson

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(Allen and Unwin) Louis Braille Audio, 2008. Read by Caroline Lee, 5 hours on 5 CDs. ISBN 978 1 74212 115 4
(Ages All) Evocatively read by Caroline Lee, this moving and poignant story of one family's journey out of Taliban held Afghanistan to Australia, where there is hope of a new life, will have middle school students enthralled. Not only have they to escape at night, leaving all their possessions behind, they must hide in a truck going across the mountains to Pakistan, where their father is told to go to Australia by himself, making the family stay behind in a 2 roomed hovel, hidden and alone. The story that Libby Gleeson writes, based on interviews with refugee Muslim children and one girl in particular in Western Sydney, rings true at every word. The book is the story of many Australians, and is all the more distressing because it is in our recent past.
The perilous trip, taken by the mother and her three children, from Pakistan to Australia is heart wrenching, and the telling makes it more so. There is quite a difference between reading it on a page, and hearing it read out loud. Their trip from Indonesia and arrival in Australia is not what they expected, and their incarceration in a detention centre, will bring home to our students the cruelty and disillusionment of such places.
Caroline's voice has just the right tone, enabling her to recount the words of all of the family with ease. Listeners will have no difficulty differentiating between the children and adults, the guards and the grandparents. The slight catch in her voice as she reads of the family's life under the Taliban, and their journey east, invites the listener into the desperate world of this family.
Along with Rosanne Hawke's vivid story, Soraya the Storyteller, and Morris Gelitzman's vBoy 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 far greater understanding and empathy, than that shown by our governments. Fran Knight

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