Review Blog

Oct 09 2014

Malini by Robert Hillman

cover image

Through my eyes series. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743312551
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Sri Lanka. War. Heroism. Religion. Surivival. When Malini is told by her father to run into the forest with her younger sister and hide, she does as she is told. All the villagers have been rounded up and herded to the coast where they will be used as a human shield, to slow the advance of the Sinhalese Army. Few will survive. It is 2009 and the civil war which has devastated much of north eastern Sri Lanka after the withdrawal of the British in 1948 is coming to a close.
Malini and her sister, Banni, must survive as best they can, refugees in their own land, eating what they can find, travelling carefully, hoping to find their grandfather's village many miles away before the soldiers of either side find them. Along the way they come across a group of three children also displaced by the war, and Malini cares for them too, all the while feeling beyond her age of fourteen. Their journey across Sri Lanka, exposes the atrocities on both sides, the impact of war on the ordinary people, the reasons behind the war. Above all we see the effect of such conflict on the children. Malini and her family are Tamil, from the north, and have been taught Sinhalese and English alongside their own language, being encouraged to accept all faiths. The children they meet are Sinhalese as is the girl who saves them from the soldiers, giving the reader an insight into the feelings of both communities.
Another in the excellent series Through my eyes, Malini will encourage students to view the unrest in other parts of the world through the eyes of a person their own age. With the civil war in Sri Lanka now at an end, readers will gain insights into the effect of war on the ordinary household, village or community. There is a timeline of the events in Sri Lanka since 1948, as well as a glossary and web addresses to find out more information, while others in this series are displayed at the end of the book. Highly recommended for classes where discussion of other countries is under way, or perhaps a literature circle is being undertaken using all the books in the series, or a book is being read aloud, the easy flowing text and appeal of the courageous main characters will ensure kids are hooked from the start. Insights into the Buddhist and Hindu beliefs of Sri Lanka sit alongside the themes of war, courage and refugees.
Fran Knight

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