The Breadwinner (2000) – Deborah Ellis

House of Anansi press has released an updated version of Deborah Ellis’ poignant and beautifully written tale, The Breadwinner. Aimed at younger readers, the book puts a face to stories that help the reader empathise and understand some of the issues that are taking place in Afghanistan.

Canadian born Ellis has crafted a whole series, with The Breadwinner being a heart-wrenching and engaging first in the series.

The story follows young Parvana, an eleven-year-old living in war torn Kabul with her family. Due to the laws of the Taliban, her mother, and sister, as well as the two youngest, Maryam and Ali, must stay in their one room apartment at all times.

Parvana is allowed to travel with her father to the market, where the crippled patriarch reads letters for those who cannot read, and pens responses for those who cannot write. Parvana delights in spending time with her father, especially as she chafes against her older sister Nooria.

Trouble rends the family apart when Taliban soldiers break into their room and drag Paravan’s father off to prison. Her mother and sister aren’t allowed to go out in public without a man to accompany them, Maryam and Ali are too young, sustaining the family falls on Parvana’s shoulders.

An idea is struck upon, one that will give Parvana a measure of freedom on the troubling streets of Kabul – they will cut her hair, and she will pose as a boy.


The story puts in plain form the laws brought in to play by the illiterate, misogynistic and sexist (and all too human) members of the Taliban and the bravery of the human spirit that resists these ridiculous, but terrifyingly violent men.

Parvana works to make ends meet for her family, feeding them, all while clinging to the hope that her father will be returned.

Ellis brings Parvana’s world to life ably and invitingly. We are drawn into Paravana’s life, and the book lays out what life must be like for people in that beautiful country,

Obviously, as the first in the series this quick read tells a full story, but also comes with a bit of a ‘to be continued’ ending. That is not a bad thing by any definition, it just means I will probably have to go out and find the rest of the series.

The book has been re-released as a tie-in for the upcoming animated film adaptation which will be released on 17 November, 2017. I do hope the film finds its audience, and I hope readers of all ages find their way to this beautiful and moving book.

The Breadwinner is available now from House of Anansi press. Pick one up today.

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 30th, 2012 - YA author Deborah Ellis.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s