“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan • Nonfiction (illustrated)

Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan
by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan • photographs by Tony O'Brien
October 2008 • Bloomsbury Children's Books • Nonfiction (illustrated)
If the stories that come out of Afghanistan are ever to contain hope for the future, then the young people in these pages are that hope.
Story: Award-winning photographer Tony O'Brien and filmmaker Mike Sullivan went to Afghanistan to interview and photograph children of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, and with very different daily lives. As each one tells his or her story, the reader is placed in the middle of everyday life as it is lived by the children of one of the world's most enduringly conflict-ridden countries. From street workers to female students in newly formed academies, from children who work in family businesses to pickpockets who steal from visiting photographers, these are the faces of young Afghans who wish for peace in their neighborhoods, in their country, and in their lifetimes.
Story behind the story: Tony O'Brien's work has appeared in many publications including Time, Life and Newsweek; he is currently the head of the Documentary Studies program at the College of Santa Fe. Mike Sullivan is a bush pilot and filmmaker who spent years working with Jacques Cousteau and has done humanitarian and environmental work all over the world. Here they tell the story of Afghanistan through the eyes of her children: "We asked the children we met about their past, their families, their present lives, and their hopes for the future....Often we told the children the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp and asked what their three wishes would be. At times we sensed that the answers were influenced by the fact that they were addressing outsiders, foreigners. But the overwhelming desire for education was genuine. Children who had been denied school for so many years had a burning desire for education and peace. Muktar, our translator, explained that education if truly their dream, although for many it is out of their reach. Their reality is this poverty-stricken, war-torn country."

Some of their stories:

Ayisha Hasea Qadir, age 14, Kabul, Freedom Afghanistan Girls' School
"I want to be a journalist and travel all over, to America, Australia, and India, as well as Afghanistan. I want to talk to the sick people, the poor people, and bring their words back here to put on the news. If there is a need for me to have a family I will marry, but if there is no need, then I won't. When I am a journalist I will take care of myself. I will marry my profession."

Wahaab, age 10, Kabul, marketplace
"I have been working as a thief for twenty days, stealing from people's pockets. I've done it ten times, it's true, ten times in twenty days. I want my real father to come back, I want my sisters and brothers, and I want a house."

Bibi Aisha, age 11, Sutir Faridah, Lelandar
"I have never been out of Lelandar....I would love to believe in a magic carpet -- I would use it to fly home from school. It takes me one hour to walk; I could fly in five minutes. But I wouldn't want to go on a flying camel. We don't have one of those. It is an old name Sutir Faridah. Maybe there were flying camels then."

Najmudin, age 13, Bamian
"I hope to be a teacher, to bring the light to other children. I want to be a teacher of teachers."

★"The goofy grin of 13-year-old Najmudin in the final photo lightens the solemnity but strengthens the overall message that these resilient young folk haven’t lost their hope of better things to come.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"The book provides a sensitive, poignant, and respectful look at the lives of these young people. …This is a timely, relevant, and well-executed offering.”—School Library Journal

Now that you've had glimpse into these young people's lives, you need to see their faces, so full of hope, so inspiring.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.


Caitlin said...

Thanks for the heads up on this book! I work at a nonprofit that builds and funds schools for kids in Afghanistan ( http://www.barakatworld.org ). We're definitely going to check out "Afghan Dreams."

Watts said...

This is a great book. The book is actual stories and pictures of children in Afganistan. Children in the US can read what the Afgan children are going through and how they feel. This book will definetley make US children more thankful for what they have.

Susan Appleton said...

I found this book to be VERY insightful into the lives of Afghani children and as I shared it with my students today in class, they really enjoyed the pictures of the children and hearing some of their stories. More than one student commented about how lucky we are in the U.S. to have all that we have and to pretty much feel safe. I really loved the photographs of the children in the book which were very beautiful! I LOVED looking at their clothes and then eyes as I read about them and their personal thoughts! Great book! I would rate it a 4.

Tina's Blog said...

This is a wonderful book, although very sad. I just finished reading The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis with a group of students and this will be a perfect book to share with them. While they knew that Parvana from the Breadwinner was a fictional character, the photographs of these children and their stories will definitely make an impact on my students. This book is one to help Americans feel blessed by our own lives. I give this book a 5.

ahslibrarian said...

Afghan Dreams is a sobering look at the lives of children in and around Kabul. At the same time it is both beautiful and horrific. The beauty lies within the eyes and soul of each child featured in this photo tour. The horror abounds in the stories that comprise their past and the uncertainty of their future.

Tony O’Brien’s pictures are compelling, to say the least. They capture, without words, the necessary conclusion that children are the largest casualties of the longstanding Afghan wars. Mike Sullivan’s text reveals the mixture of hope and reality that makes dreams possible. Together, O’Brien and Sullivan relay the message that these Afghan children are forced to grow up too soon because of their geographic destiny.

The Afghan landscape has been fraught with problems for more than a century. The Taliban and the presence of the United States in the region is only the most recent version of the problem. Given the length of the protracted struggle, the strategy of O’Brien and Sullivan is to address the problem with a younger audience. By creating awareness the authors have planted seeds for humanitarian action that will eventually ripen.

The young voices of Afghanistan need to be heard in every community around the world. One way to make this happen is to share this book with someone, or ask that the local library make it available. Educators need to be refreshed by the war-torn stories of children who desire to be teachers. Kids of all ages need to hear the strained voices of children that could be their brother or sister. Everyone needs a beautiful encounter, and this book provides.

5 of 5

John Parker
Media Coordinator
Andrews High School
50 HS Drive
Andrews, NC 28901

Anonymous said...

Knowing that the men behind this book are world-renowned (O'Brien with Time, Life, and Newsweek, Sullivan with Cousteau), doesn't really prepare you for the emotional impact left by their poignant images and words. I would rate it a 5! The only caution I would offer is that the font chosen throughout the book is a very artistic italic. Since I work with the ESOL population, many of them will not be able to read this on their own; dependent upon whether they have ever learned to read cursive fonts or not. Although not a true cursive, I anticipate the italicized font will prove to be a challenge for some readers.

loonyhiker said...

I recently received this book featured on The Picnic Basket to review and couldn’t put the book down. I would definitely rate it a 5! The photography was awesome and the stories from the children were too. My heart was full as I read the different stories and tried to imagine the hard lives they lead. I realized how spoiled our children are in my own country and wonder if they appreciate all that we have. When I read stories about how much school meant to some of them and how far they went for any education they could get amazed me. When the end of the book came, I wasn’t ready to stop reading because I wanted to read more stories. Part of me wanted a happy ending for the end of the book even though I knew it wouldn’t happen.

Pat Hensley
Successful Teaching
Greenville, SC

MLCS said...

This is a wonderful picture journal about the children. the photography is wonderfully done and the stories are perfectly stated. This book has sparked wonderful conversations with my students. They were most touched by the cemetery picture and the crowed school with children on the floor with spots of some sort. They realized just how fortunate they really are. It is a gentle way to expose them to children who are like them, but have completely different lives.
This is a must for a picnic. 5

Linda said...

This is definitely a 5! I first just left the book out for my students to see their reactions. No intro..no direction...It quickly got their attention and several students sat reading the books and "reading the photos". We are currently working on Pennies for Peace, and it helps to reaffirm that there are indeed children suffering in the world, without being preachy.

Maria said...

I think this is a wonderful addition to a class library. It helps students here in the US really connect to the children in Afganistan. So often books that are meant to enlighten children and offer them a deeper look into another culture fall short of the mark whether they come off too preachy or are just not engaging. This one hits the mark on all counts. An engaging book with meaninful stories of what children are actually going through, their feelings and perspectives on life.

kdeeb from Sarasota Fl said...

What a great insight into Afghan children's life. This book offers a window for the US children to compare their own lives with Afghan children. 5 all the way for this book.... Great Job.... Submitted by Kdeeb, Sarasota Florida

Lemon the Duck said...

This book is a winner. I used this with some of my elemetary writing classes. I started by reading a few of the Afghani children's stories. As a class we compared and contrasted their lives with ours.
I showed the rest of the pictures to the students without reading the stories that went along with them. I had my students closely observe the pictures. Each student chose an Afghani child that they wanted to write about.
I sent them back to their seats to predict and write about 3 things they thought their child would hope/wish for. Afterwards, they turned and talked with a friend about their writing.
The next day, we came back together as a whole group and shared. The children were eager to compare what they wrote with what the Afghani children had said. Some had picked up the common threads they had heard at the beginning of the book the day before, and the ones that hadn't as of yet, truly understood by the end of our writing and discussions.
This book, with it's close-up pictures of the children of Afghanistan, and their words provide an engaging, honest picture of what some of the children of the country live with every day. It made the lessons less abstract to my young students as they attempted to connect and empathize with children less fortunate than themselves, yet still full of hope.
I would rate this book a 5 out of 5.

Laura Backman
Reading Specialist
Melville School

Pamela Kramer said...

Afghan Dreams
By Tony O’Brien and Mike Sullivan

Afghan Dreams is a beautiful book. That it was written by a photographer is obvious from the lovely, poignant pictures of Kabul and the young people who live there. Unfortunately, I think the book would have better captured the attention of children by having a writer involved in the project.

The information from the children (in their own words) seems stilted at times and disconnected. For example, Farima talks about how when they went to Pakistan during the war, they had to pay rent for a house and it was hard, but she doesn’t provide (or the writers didn’t include) details about why it was hard and what life was like. Her next paragraph talks about how she would make Mentu for children from another country and she describes this food. The final paragraph talks about how she loves her parents and that “The most important thing that can happen in my country is peace—to live peacefully and be able to continue my studies.” Her words are minimal and the reader is left feeling unsatisfied.

Although it is obvious to adults reading this book that the children are responding to questions from the interviewers, children might find this confusing as the stories do not flow. Also, what would be most interesting for most students is how the children live in Afganistan, but interesting, day-to-day examples of life are often missing. When Tajalaa, an eight-year-old, talks about his life he says that he can’t go to school because his mother says they must work. What kind of work does an eight-year-old do? How much money can he make? What is their house like? These are the kinds of questions that my students want to know the answers to.

Younger students (elementary school) will want answers to simple questions. Older students in middle school will just want more information about the children in the book.

So while I think that the intent of this book is a noble one—to learn about the children of Afghanistan and their thoughts and dreams—the book fails to really help with the international understanding that was its intent.

I would rate this a 3.5 for the content and a 5 for the photographs. Welcome at some picnics for its beauty and incredible pictures.

Pamela Kramer
Reading Teacher
Highwood, Illinois

jackie purificato said...

This was a beautiful book. This year our sixth graders have been focusing on books about dreams. This is a great book to add to our reading list. It tells of the dreams from the students of Afghanistan who are the same age. I will also use this book to go along with the fictional books that we read about Afghanistan. The visuals in this book are also beautiful. The looks on the children's faces bring their voices to life.
Consultant teacher

jwelch said...

Afghan Dreams is a beautiful book. As a child, I had no idea how children on the other side of the lived. I think it is so important that we, adults and children, are aware of other cultures and what is happening to other human beings around the world. It creates perspective. I've just finished reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which was so eye opening. This book is a way to share the story of another world with children. I love it!
Rating: 5

Jessica said...

This is a wonderful book! Through the pictures and wishes of children in Afghanistan, our students will be able to relate to these children as well as experience their hardships. The wishes of the Afghani students are very different compared to what most of our children would be wishing for. This book would be a great starting point for a discussion on the importance of education and how blessed our students are to be able to attend school. The stories and pictures of these children brough tears to my eyes, so I really reccomend reading it to yourself before sharing it with students to get all of your emotions out. I LOVED this book and would give it a 5!

Barbara Duggan said...

I found the photographs compelling and the stories were like little windows into another world. Coincidentally reading Three Cups of Tea at the same time deepened my interest in this part of the world.

As I shared this book with my middle school students, they commented on their ages, the work hours, similarity of looks, lack of educational opportunities...but also had many questions about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the US military role there, our ability to "rescue" all these children...and why we can't just "end" it.

I would rate this a 5 for the photographs and an overall 4.

Reading resource teacher

Anonymous said...

This book is a potentially powerful read for our students. It opens up a world to the reader through hopes, dreams, and believing in the future. Great photographs and images. This book has earned a 5 rating.

dmuldawer said...

Afghan Dreams lets the reader see life in Afghanistan through the simplicity of a child. There is so much we take for granted in America and these children have so little besides hope. It's an excellent way of comparing cultural difference and the universal themes of hopes and dreams.

Picnic Basket Rating: 5

Katherine Farrington, Colonial School District said...

What a beautiful book! The first picture that struck me is the one on the front cover of two boys flying a kite. It reminded of the adult book, The Kite Runner. The book contains stunning photographs of Afghan children. Accompanying each photograph is a narrative written by the featured boy or girl. The narratives tug at your heartstrings as you read about their hardships and struggles, hopes and dreams. Their lives are very different from those of American children. I rate this book a 5 because it would be a great addition to any collection that wants to improve its selection of multicultural materials.

Monica said...

This is a book that every child in the US should read. It shows pictures of children at various ages and has them comment about their life and future. Many of them are very sad, some talk about the war and the Taliban.

Anonymous said...

Sandra Said...
Wow What a great book. I read it yesterday morning before class started and had four students read it throughout the day. One of my Haitian students said to her seat partner, "I always thought we were poor in Haiti but I was rich and they are poor." The other girl thought that it was sad that they complain about going to school every day and and that was all these kids wanted to do. I definately give this book a 5.

The Black Family said...

This was an amazing book for anyone, but particularly kids in America where we are so blessed. It brings the war, which seems so far away to kids, right to their fingertips. The children whose stories are told are so relatable, yet so different from any of my students that I think it would be a real eye-opener for them. The format was wonderful and the photography very enticing. I could stare at one picture for minutes on end. The photographer captured these children beautifully. I definitly give this book a 5 out of 5 and think it would be a great addition to a classroom library.

Kari R said...

I requested to review this book as my school participates in a program to send monies to countries around the world with children who are needy. One of the difficulites in teaching about these countries is how to find appropriate materials to share with the children. This book does an excellent job of explaining life in Afganistan through the eyes of a child. My students were touched and amazed at the stories and the beautiful pictures. I would highly recommend this book! I give it 5 out of 5.

Anonymous said...

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan is truly a book with at least 1,000 words per picture. This book was marvelously created to be understood from Kindergarten through high school; younger grades requiring more explanations from teachers. This is a rich book that I am grateful to add to our collection! My heart to Afghanistan and all it's children: Thank you for sharing a brief look into your lives.
Rating: 5
Julia Pitau
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Martine Battista said...

I initially requested this for our middle school library because the content sounded mature- the everyday lives of kids growing up in a war torn country. After reading this beautiful book, I plan on adding a copy to our elementary library as well. So far, students are not having difficulty reading the font. If they can read each other's writing then this is easy! Before I read the book I was afraid it would come across as heavy handed and political. It wasn't at all. I am very pleased to have this in our collection and I look forward to sharing this with students of all ages.
Picnic Basket rating: 5.
Denair Elementary/Middle School Libraries
Denair, CA

Lisa said...

This book was a very emotional read. Reading through the entire book was difficult the first time. The introduction states that the authors interviewed children living in Afghanistan to find out about their hopes and dreams for the future. Throughout the book photos of these children are presented and accompanied by their own words giving a glimpse into their lives and feelings. After just reading a few of the childrens' thoughts it is clear that theirs is a life very different from those of the students I teach. Although much sadness is reflected in the words of these children, there is also hope. These children want a better life for themselves and for their country. Both the photographs and words of the children, will provide students with a glimpse into a culture that they may otherwise have difficulty imagining.

Anonymous said...

This a wonderful book for any multicultural collection. The photos are beautiful and the text is moving and non-political. I think any book that helps children relate to other children is a valuable teaching tool.

With all of the focus on Afghanistan these days, it is important for students to realize how fortunate and safe we really are here in the United States.

A great resource for social studies, language arts, or current events. I would rate it a 4.

Ramona Klein
St. Anne School Library
Pittsburgh, PA

Kathy said...

"Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan" was a touching book for my students and me. My students were shocked about how different Afghani children's lives and their lives are. Several started researching Afghanistan to find more information about the country. Thank you for the opportunity to share this book with my fourth grade students. Our rating for this book is a 5 out of 5.

Kathy J. Johnson
4th grade classroom
Williamsburg Elementary
Williamsburg, MO

Lisa Kennedy said...

What a terrific book! All children should be given the opportunity to read it. The stories of the children in much less fortunate situations would be an eye-opener to most students in the United States. The photography is beautiful and adds so much to the words of the Afghan children. While sad to imagine their lives I truly enjoyed their stories. I would highly recommend this book. A 5 out of 5.

jpourciau said...

"Afghan Dreams" is a great book to share with students of all ages. The real-life stories and photos are compelling. I believe this book will provide a reality check for many students that do not appreciate the luxuries they have surrounding them. They take for granted so many things and I think this book will open thier eyes and their hearts. This is a must have book for every classroom. I rate this book a 5 out of 5.

vsp said...

This is a beautiful book filled with the haunting faces of Afghani youth, most of them teenagers who have seen more than their share of tragedy in their short lives. Each page includes a photograph of the young writer and a brief reflection of what their lives are like today. In spite of the devastation they have experienced, most of them still manage a smile for the camera and bring a message of hope for what their lives may one day become. Compelling and poignant, I highly recommend this book for US children of all ages as a way of finding common ground with Afghanistan's young voices. 5 out of 5
Vicki Plefka, Teacher-Librarian
Fair Oaks, CA

Anonymous said...

This book left me teary-eyed - not because it is inherently sad, but because it made me realize how much of my life, my culture I take for granted. Using this book in the classroom will be a definite eye opener for my students too.

A. Hunt said...

Afghan Dreams is a beautiful book and the pictures are breathtaking. While meaningful, I think we are missing the opportunity to fully explain to adults and kids alike the circumstances and challenges faced by the children depicted in the photos. I do not see my 8th graders reading the author's note in the beginning of the book outlining the recurring theme of the desire for education by these children. And I do not see them as seeing the information given in the text as spontaneous and genuine. They would view it as an adult ploy to push the value of education.

It should be included in the picnic basket for the discussions it will bring. 3.5

A. Hunt
Middle School Language Arts
Fort Walton Beach, FL

Rebecca said...

This book was interesting for my 2nd grade students because it showed them what life is like in other places. Until they see it, from children there own age, they don't really understand the differences in the lives of others. Thank you for an interesting book.