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My Name is Parvana by Deborah Ellis

I was delighted this summer when Groundwood Books offered me an advance copy of Deborah Ellis’s soon-to-be released sequel to the Breadwinner series, My Name is Parvana. Deborah Ellis had spoken at our Librarian’s PD last spring on the day she had just finished her changes and had submitted the book to the publisher. I had been looking forward to reading the upcoming book ever since. To have the opportunity to read it before its release was wonderful!

It arrived in the mail on Friday and I wasted no time starting to read this much-anticipated book, finishing it the same day. The book begins with the now 15-year-old Parvana in custody refusing to answer the questions of  foreign soldiers (probably American). We do not know why she is undergoing questioning or why she won’t answer their questions. We soon learn that she is under suspicion of being a terrorist, but still she refuses to answer their questions.

The early chapters alternate between Parvana in custody and flashing back to the story of the school that her mother had started. The ever-enterprising Parvana had put a lot of work into preparing this school for its opening. She showed an inclination toward architecture but wasn’t so sure about settling down to her studies after the years spent  fending for herself and her family during the Taliban rule. The book also alludes to time spent in the refugee camps with her family before the school was built. This walled school housed them and was their current refuge.

The book also delves into family relationships. She continues to have a difficult relationship with her mother and Nooria, the sister her mother favours, in spite of Parvana’s sacrifice and hardship to keep the family alive that forms the plot of  the earlier books. It also chronicles the ongoing struggle of women and girls to obtain an education in Afghanistan and the continual threats to which the school, its teachers and the students are subjected.

Deborah Ellis has skilfully used flashback to heighten the readers’ interest in this compelling story. The reasons Parvana is in custody and why she is acting as she is, are gradually revealed. At the same time, the use of this device fills in what has happened since the last book. The reader moves forward in anticipation of the next development in this story until the exciting moment when the two stories converge.

The book’s conclusion is true to both the country of Afghanistan and the character of Parvana.

My Name is Parvana confirms Parvana as one of the great characters of children’s literature. I can hardly wait to get a copy for the library! The students are going to love it!

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