The Afghanistan pup by Mark Wilson

cover image

Lothian, 2014. ISBN 9780734415325.
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Picture book, Afghanistan, Animals. When the pup is born in Afghanistan, it has no control over its welfare, so one day when its mother goes out in search of food, she never returns. The pup and his siblings must fend for themselves in this city under siege. Luckily for him a young girl finds him, emaciated and weak, and takes him home. She cares for him, leaving him in the corner of her room when she goes to school. One day she takes him too, and insurgents bomb the school, leaving the pup alone again. An Australian soldier helping to rebuild the school finds the pup and takes him home, caring for him. The pup goes with him as he works, but one day when the soldier goes out to battle, he does not return. The pup goes back to the school and is reunited with the girl.
This is a moving tribute to the strength and courage of the children of Afghanistan as they struggle on to school, despite the war which surrounds them. Girls particularly are not encouraged to be educated and so it is common for schools to be bombed, and sometimes the girls beaten or shot.
In this story we see the plight of the children at the school, desperate to receive an education despite what happens to them, the girl returning to the school when it is rebuilt by the Australians after she is released from hospital. The pup neatly connects the two, the brave girl and the courageous soldier, both fighting against ignorance.
Wilson's illustrations magnify the spare story, adding texture and layers with his line drawings, water colour images and copies of newspaper articles. The multi-media approach which has worked so well with his other books, Vietnam Diary, My Mother's eyes and Angel of Kokoda, works again, giving the younger reader a glimpse into the lives of children in Afghanistan, a little of the various work expected of soldiers, and the struggle they all have to stay alive.
Fran Knight