The Breadwinner by Ellis, Deborah Reprint Edition [Paperback(2001)]

by Deborah Ellis

Paperback, ?



Local notes

PB Ell


Groundwood Books, Edition: Reprint


Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women's freedom and behavior, eleven-year-old Parvana must disguise herself as a boy so that her family can survive after her father's arrest.

Original publication date


Physical description

8.43 inches



Media reviews

Parvana es una chica de once años que vive con su familia en Kabul, la capital de Afganistán, durante la época del gobierno talibán. Cuando su padre es detenido, su familia -sin recursos para poder vivir-, buscará una solución desesperada: Parvana, que por ser mujer tiene prohibido ganar dinero, deberá transformarse en un chico y trabajar. Primero, leyendo la correspondencia en el mercado a la gente que es analfabeta y, poco después, vendiendo también tabaco con otra chica disfrazada. Mientras, su familia marcha a Mazar a casar a la hija mayor. Pero la ciudad, que estaba en manos de los rebeldes, es tomada por los talibanes, quedando atrapados allí. El padre de Parvana sale de la cárcel y ambos emprenden viaje para reunirse con ellas.

User reviews

LibraryThing member VivienneR
Parvana is an eleven-year-old girl in Afghanistan, whose disabled father is thrown in jail by the Taliban for no other reason than being educated. Without a male escort the family are not permitted to go outside so Parvana adopts the guise of a boy so that she may become the breadwinner. Although this was a charming story about a very appealing child, it shows how unbearable Taliban rule is, how difficult life is in Afghanistan particularly for women. This beautifully written story intended for a young audience is one I can heartily recommend.

The author spent time in Afghan refugee camps where she heard similar stories. All royalties from this book are donated to Women for Women in Afghanistan.
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LibraryThing member ashleymcquirk
Parvana is a young girl living in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Her father is taken to prison on random day, leaving the family with no income and no way to eat. Parvana changes her appearance to that of a boy so she can work and get food for her mother, sisters and brother. She finds a former classmate in the same situation. Her friend, Shauzia expresses her desire to leave Afghanistan in pursuit of a better life, even if it means leaving her family behind. Parvana's sister, Nooria, goes to Mazar with the family minus Parvana to be married. Mazar is attacked, Parvana's father returns home and Parvana and her father decide they must travel to see if their family is in one of the refugee camps. Shauzia decides to travel with a group of nomads. The book ends with the girls exchanging goodbyes en route to their respective destinations.

There are plenty of teaching opportunites from this book. I think that the gender identity issue that Parvana has to confront is a unique teaching opportunity because that is something that American students never have to conceive of doing. Even just the fact that the book is written about Afghanistan is important and opens the door for explaining Middle Eastern culture, which is important now because so much racism exists from 9/11. Having students maybe write a letter to Shauzia expressing approval or disapproval of her decision to leave her family would be a good writing activity. I would encourage the students to make it a persuasive letter, to try and persuade her to stay or to leave her family. Having students do a Venn diagram to compare and contrast their lives to Parvana's would also help give students some perspective to sympathize with Parvana and Shauzia.

I really enjoyed this book! It's not a complex or complicated read but the plot is definitely intriguing. I love that I could use this book in the classroom to help students let go of prejudices against Middle Eastern people. I like that it doesn't even involve religion explicitly because I think that is where the issues become to blurred and difficult to explain to adolescents. But helping them learn that the Taliban is just an extremist religious organization, not the voice of an entire nation and not an example of the sentiments of the people from Afghanistan is so important. I just think this book will be so useful in helping students learn empathy.
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LibraryThing member hartn
Set in Afghanistan during the peak of the reign of the Taliban - before American and NATO invasion and intervention, this is the story of a young girl, Parvana, who must sacrifice her very identity to be the breadwinner for the family. The world Ellis draws us into is very complete and the drama and conflict the family faces is set up in such a way that what is unbelievable is that Parvana must acquiesce and survive in such a ridiculous world. Set in Kabul during a time of public punishments, military rule, imprisonment without charge or trial, and practically an apartheid against women and girls, the Breadwinner never succumbs to opinions and the brevity of the prose is haunting.
Coming from an educated family, Parvana sees the city of Kabul under the Taliban in stark contrast to her dreams of the future and her family's recent past. While her mother and older sister attempt to set up a clandestine school in their small home, Parvana steels through the streets of Kabul brazenly following crowds with wares and snacks for sale when she is not otherwise engaged writing and reading letters for people who cannot read or write.
This is a thoughtful novel with a high degree of accuracy and will leave the reader intensely curious about Parvana, her family, Afghanistan and the children of war - to whom the book is dedicated. The writing is as exceptional as the story, and although the publisher chose a passage for the jacket that is filled with a high degree of tension - pitting the central character against the very face of the war - I would select this passage if trying to entice someone to read the book:

"...Mother and Nooria had to wear burquas whenever they went outside, and they couldn't carry a pail of water up those uneven broken stairs if they were wearing burquas. Plus, it was dangerous for women to go outside without a man.
Parvana knew she had to fetch the water because there was nobody else in the family who could do it. Sometimes this made her resentful. Sometimes it made her proud. One thing she knew - it didn't matter how she felt. Good mood or bad, the water had to be fetched, and she had to fetch it."
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LibraryThing member jauntyjinty
Couldn't put this down on a flight to London. Very much a page turner, and whilst it is 2 years since I read it I can still remember vividly the sense of place depicted in this moving story.
LibraryThing member reneecomer
A novel about the devestation that was caused by the Taliban and the war in Afghanistan (late 1990's)told from the perspective of an 11 year old girl. The first person narrative makes this survival story extremely relatable to this age group (ages 9-12) and the specific details included in this story make this family's expierence come to life.… (more)
LibraryThing member jsresource
Parvana is a girl whose father was taken away by the Taliban, and she needs to provide for her family. The problem is, girls aren't allowed to work. She dresses as a boy, leading her on a dangerous path to provide for her family.
LibraryThing member kkcrossley
In this book the main characters are Parvana, her mother and father, older sister, younger sister, and baby brother, who are living in Afghanistan after the Taliban has reestablished control and restricted all females to the home after having done away with any jobs or schooling for women.
LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
Parvana is a girl living in Kabul, Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. In a society where grown women are held prisoner to repressive rules of behavior, Parvana is just the right age. She is old enough to run errands for the family and help her crippled father get around town. But then her father gets hauled off by the Taliban soldiers and the burden of supporting the family falls on her young shoulders. She's the only one in her family who can masquerade as a boy, don't you know. (Well, except for baby Ali, I suppose, who really is a boy.) As far as a girl-masquerading-as-a-boy tale goes, The Breadwinner is pretty typical. What makes the book interesting is the picture of Taliban run Afghanistan it offers. 'Tis a culture of oppression, yet one that had failed to totally eliminate hope. I can only pray that hope and justice win out wherever such regimes hold sway.
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LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
11-year-old Parvana's father has been taken to prison. Under the Taliban in Afghanistan, women and girls are not allowed to leave the house without a man - with her father gone, Parvana's family will be trapped inside and starve to death. The only solution is for Parvana to dress as a boy, and make money as a scribe at the market place.
This story was wonderfully touching. While it firmly aims to show how difficult Taliban rule was, especially for woman, this message does not overwhelm the characters. Parvana is a game and fiesty little girl, and her frustrations and fears are easy to identify with. I found the sotry personal and sympathetic rather than didactic. In one incident Parvana and a friend follow a crowd to stadium hoping to sell sweets to football fans and instead encounter a mass execution - while the gore is not vividly described, the children's shock is bright, sharp, and memorable.
I'd give this to readers interested in life in other stories, and especially about the conflict in the Middle East.
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LibraryThing member Bekki08
this book is so cool it is about a girl called Parvana who has to turn into a boy to help her family survive because her father has been take. The taliban can not find out will they manage to keep it a secret????
LibraryThing member srssrs
The Breadwinner is a fictional account of a girl living in Kabul in the late 1990s during the rule of the Taliban. Parvana, the narrator - main character, is lively and brave. The title of the book reflects what she does every day; goes to the market in disguise to try and earn enough money to support her family. Her knew identity as a boy gives her freedom to move around the bombed out city, albeit in constant fear of being discovered. Ellis does a fantastic job in moving the plot along, suspense is on every page. There is also a brief glossary in the back to assist with some of the language used in the novel. This book would be a great fit for a class read, or for any young adult who wants to experience a war torn city through the eyes of Parvana.… (more)
LibraryThing member AwsomeGuy
This book Bread Winner A.K.A Parvana is a great book about a 11 year old girl who lives in Afghanistan and has to dress up like a boy to get money for her family after her father is put in prison for something and meets another girl just like her called Shauzia and they work together to get more money, and they take on more than one job to help feed their family but Shauzia wnts to leave Afgaistan.this book is full of the things Parvana and what her family have done, the members of Pavanas family are Nooria,Parvana,Maryam,Ali,Mother whos real name is only mentioned once and Farther whos real name isnt mentioned. thats my reveiw and I hope you enjoy this book! By AwsomeGuy!!… (more)
LibraryThing member Moriah103193
The Bread Winner is about a war in the in the East in Kabul where women aren't allowed to have an education, work nor go outside. So Parvana (the main character) cuts him hair and disguises herself as a boy to go to school, work, and shopping to support the family. But she has to be careful for the Taliban or else she may get killed.… (more)
LibraryThing member mathqueen
Deborah Ellis does a magnificent job portraying the lives of women being ruled by the Taliban in this book. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t know a lot about the culture of Afghan or the severe struggles these people endured to survive under Taliban rule. The restrictions on females described in this book prompted me to further research. It is amazing women, and children, could survive this heinous treatment. This book served a reminder of the cocoons we can weave ourselves into as we go about our daily lives, giving no thought to the outside world. The interaction of the female characters in this story made a huge impact on me. When Father is with them, the girls are rude to each other, bantering back and forth about everything. Rarely do they have a pleasant exchange. Because of the laws concerning women, even Mother, who in the past was a very active member of society, is stuck in her own little world within her apartment. As the story progresses, the women begin to rely on each other, and also on other females outside the apartment. Finally, the females in the story even begin helping others, seeing needs beyond their own and realizing their own strength and significance.
Library Implications: This book is an excellent addition to any library collection. It gives the reader, young and old alike, a perspective of Afghanistan few can even imagine. The reader is able to experience the plight of women being terrorized by the Taliban but also feel a sense of hope as the events of the story unfold. The student reading this book could further their study of Afghan women by focusing on present-day conditions of life for women. Although graphic in nature, the more mature student could focus their research on Taliban control tactics and battle strategies that have made it difficult for Afghans to survive in that war-ravaged land.
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LibraryThing member yosbooks
A great kids book with realistic descriptions about life under Taliban rule. My 11 year old read it for school and loved it.
LibraryThing member scd87
This book is interesting in that you get to see what daily life is like in Afghanistan under the Taliban. However, the story itself was rather plain. I guess this may be very intriguing to children since the topic will shock them and the writing is simple. It is not recommended to squeamish kids.
LibraryThing member meggyweg
This book was published only a year or two before the September 11 attacks. The fact that Ellis had to define terms like "Taliban" seems kind of amusing now. This is a good illustration, I think, of what it would be like to be a child in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
LibraryThing member Simran.96
This book is about a girl's life and what she has to go through since the Taliban took her father away. I really enjoyed reading this book because it is kind of like a diary. I don't have anything common with the main character because my life story is way different than hers. She has to struggle a lot to become a boy to provide food, money, and water for her family.I would recommend this book to children of the age 11-15. There were very interesting parts in this story such as digging up bones to collect money to sell other items.… (more)
LibraryThing member jo2son
The story of Parvana, a young Afghan girl who must support her family in Kabul. Provides a glimpse of what life is like in Afghanistan for women and girls. Twenty years of war have left this a difficult place to live.
LibraryThing member DubaiReader
This is a well written, eye-opening book about life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Pavana's mother is well educated but is forbidden to work because women have to stay at home. Her father has a degree from an overseas university but is reduced to reading and writing letters in a corner of the market.
When her father is taken by the Taliban there is no male figure to provide for the family and to shop for everyday needs. The only solution is for Pavana to dress as a boy and work in the market.

An excellent insight into life under very difficult circumstances. Books such as this should be compulsory reading for young readers.
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LibraryThing member pmacsmith
I read this through for the second time and it was as amazing as the first. It is an opportunity to see what it would be like to be female and living in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. It makes me want to read the next two books in this series all over again.
LibraryThing member SunnyChang
This is a book about this girl's life under the Taliban's rule. The story started off with how life was in Afghanistan and there were rules about how girls could not go out of their home but only do house work. The males were the only ones who were able to go out of the house to work, and they had rules about executing people who had education before. Unlucky the Taliban soldiers took away her father and he never came back to their house again. Ever since that happened her family had problems, and she had to disguise herself as a boy and go out the market to buy and get what ever the house needs and the story goes on talking about what happened to her dad and how she overcame the problems.… (more)
LibraryThing member eduscapes
Wow! This book is a wonderful way to introduce students to what life was like in the late 1990s Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
LibraryThing member StaceyMiller
This is an eyeopening book that offers great insight into life in Taliban ruled Afghanistan. Ellis does an increadible job bringing the reader into Parvana's everyday life as the primary breadwinner for her family. This book is not only timely, but also very relatable to young readers.
LibraryThing member stornelli
Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women's freedom and behavior, eleven-year-old Parvana must disguise herself as a boy so that her family can survive after her father's arrest.


(310 ratings; 4)
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