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2003 Nominee
Voted 1 out of 20

The Breadwinner

By Deborah Ellis. Published in 2000 by Groundwood

Parvana, age 11, and her family live in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, in a bombed-out apartment building. Life in Afghanistan is difficult with the Taliban in power. The Taliban has strict rules, especially for women. Women are not allowed to appear in public without being covered from head to toe in a burqa (a tent-like garment), and accompanied by a man. Parvana and her sisters are not allowed to go to school.

Each day Parvana accompanies her handicapped father to the market, where her father reads, translates and writes letters for other people. Besides helping her father walk, she tries to sell some things as well.

One evening after supper, soldiers come into their apartment and arrest the father. He remains in prison for a long time without any charges brought against him. In the meantime, the family has to survive somehow. It is decided that Parvana can pass for a boy if dressed in boys’ clothing and her long hair cut off. She continues to sell stuff at the market, read letters for other people, and buys food for the family. All the time Parvana is nervous about being discovered by the Taliban that she is really a girl.

This book provides readers in grades 5 to 7 with a look at what life was like in Afghanistan, before the United States declared war on the Taliban and terrorists.


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