The United States is still involved in Afghanistan, and interest in girls’ education in that war-torn country is a strong topic of concern.
Young Razia wants to attend the new girls’ school that is being built in her village, but her grandfather is her only ally. Her older brothers, uneducated themselves, don’t want her to attend. Little do they know that she has already taught herself to read and that she is independent enough to ask the head of the school to convince her family. It is difficult to understand why Aziz, her eldest brother, wields such power in the family, but teacher Razia Jan, modeled after a real Afghani-American who has returned to her country to spread the hope of education, knows she has to persuade him. (Confusingly, the teacher shares the protagonist’s name.) However, it is young Razia herself who proves to Aziz that education can be useful when she uses her secret literacy to give him the correct dose of medicine when he falls ill. Using collage techniques that employ photography, traditional fabrics and realistic pencil sketches, Verelst creates a striking complement to this realistic story of contemporary life. The explanatory material at the end and the classroom activities are useful for educational settings.
Purposeful in a positive way, this imaginatively illustrated book should open readers’ eyes to issues facing children who live in very different circumstances. (Picture book. 8-11)