The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

The Lovereading4Kids comment

Selected by a distinguished independent panel of experts including our editorial expert, Julia Eccleshare, for Diverse Voices - 50 of the best Children's Books celebrating cultural diversity in the UK.

A compelling and engrossing story about a girl living in war-torn Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Parvana must disguise herself as a boy to save her mother and sisters from starvation. Every day, it is a fight for survival.


The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Afghanistan: Parvana's father is arrested and taken away by Taliban soldiers. Under Taliban law, women and girls are not allowed to leave the house on their own. Parvana, her mother, and sisters are prisoners in their own home. With no man to go out to buy food, they face starvation. So Parvana must pretend to be a boy to save her family. It is a dangerous plan, but their only chance. In fear, she goes out - and witnesses the horror of landmines, the brutality of the Taliban, and the desperation of a country trying to survive. But even in despair lies hope..

Deborah Ellis has been to Afghan refugee camps and has listened to many stories like Parvana's.


It answers the question; What's it like to be an Afghan child? It makes it clear that Afghans aren't the enemy, that children all over the world hate helping with the washing up, whether they are starving or not. It allows children to draw their own conclusions about why we are fighting. Most importantly, it humanises the war ... it deserves to become a bestseller ... The Daily Telegraph

Very remarkable and highly topical. The horrors of life under the Taliban are balanced by loyalty, courage and hope. Read it. Independent on Sunday

I was gripped by this series and couldn't drag myself away from it. Ellis beautifully captures childhood in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan. The stories are very moving. Malala Yousafzai All girls [should read]: The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis [...] I think it's important for girls everywhere to learn how women are treated in some societies. But even though Parvana is treated as lesser than boys and men, she never feels that way. She believes in herself and is stronger to fight against hunger, fear and war. Girls like her are an inspiration. The Breadwinner reminds us how courageous and strong women are around the world. Malala Yousafzai

About the Author

Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis works as a mental health residential counsellor in Toronto and is the winner of the Governor General’s Award in Canada (equivalent to the Carnegie Medal) for her first novel 'Looking for X'.

She was raised in Paris, Ontario and from the time she was 17 she has been a political activist, advocating non-violence. After high school she went to Toronto and worked in the Peace Movement. Later she got involved in the Women’s Movement, focusing on women’s rights and economic justice. She has spent a lot of time in Pakistan, in Afghan refugee camps, talking to women and documenting their lives under 20 years of war. Her main engagement continues to be anti-war politics.

Her books include 'The Breadwinner' and its sequel 'Parvana's Journey'. Both books are set in Afghanistan during and after the rule of the Taliban.

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Book Info


176 pages


Deborah Ellis
More books by Deborah Ellis


Oxford University Press

Publication date

6th March 2014




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