Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Breadwinner: A Graphic Novel

Ellis, Deborah (Author)
Tanaka, Shelley (Author)
Twomey, Nora (Author)
Groundwood Books 2018. 80 pages
First published: 2018
ISBN: 9781773061184 (paperback)
9781773061634 (hardcover)
9781773061306 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text

Text Elements:

character, conflict, dialogue, panel arrangement, point of view, setting, structures and features

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

The novel takes place in Kabul, Afghanistan under Taliban rule. In the opening panels, Parvana and her father are selling a few items at the market when two Taliban soldiers approach: “She should be at home, not displaying herself in the market.” The soldiers follow Parvana and her father home and arrest the father for having “forbidden books.” Parvana must cut her hair and dress like a boy to earn money for her family. If she earns enough by providing reading and writing services at the market, she can bribe the jail guards to set her father free.

The illustrations are stills from the animated film of the same name. They feature a dark palette, with reds and blacks to denote war and the Taliban rule. Each page is fast-paced: small panels show Parvana navigating the crowded market and her family’s dark, bombed-out home; chased by the men who arrested her father, Parvana and her friend jump into a ravine.

By using her reading skills to help a prison worker, Parvana manages to release her weak, injured father. The final panel shows Parvana’s tear-streaked, moonlit face as she repeats to her father a story he told her in the opening pages: “We are a fractured land in the claws of the Hindu Kush mountains, scorched by the fiery eyes of the northern deserts. We are a land whose people are its greatest treasure.” This tale of survival provides ample opportunity for discussions on women’s rights, the challenges of wartime, and the courage and resilience of a young girl.

  •  

    Discuss why countries go to war. Are there any advantages? What can you do to prevent wars?

  •  

    Graphic novels can convey information and emotion succinctly through images and words. Write a response to the page with four red panels that begins with “Mighty rulers came: Cyrus the Great of Persia.” Consider the structures and features of text (colours, shapes, information boxes) and how much is said in a short amount of space.

  •  

    In small groups, discuss the following excerpts from the text: “Women should not go outside” and “If a woman shows herself (reveals her face) she will be cursed.” Write to explain your understanding of and reaction to these statements.

  •  

    Using a T-chart, compare a day in Parvana's life with that of an average North American child/teen.

  •  

    Write about the work you could do if you needed to support your family. What if you had to pretend to be of the opposite sex in order to find work?

  •  

    From the book cover, make predictions about the story. Read the description on the back cover. Does this change your thinking?

  •  

    Consider the illustrations. What do you notice in the facial expressions, actions, use of colours, information boxes? How do they help you understand the story?

  •  

    Imagine that you are in Parvana's situation. What could you do to help your family? How would you feel if you had to pretend to be a child of the other sex in order to find work?

  •  

    In small groups, discuss the following excerpts from the text: “Women should not go outside” and “If a woman shows herself (reveals her face) she will be cursed.” Write to explain your understanding of and reaction to these statements.

  •  

    Do background research on the Taliban’s rule over Kabul. In small groups, discuss the roles of men and women in that society and compare them to your own reality.

  •  While you read, pay attention to Parvana’s greatest moments of bravery and fear. Would you have done and felt the same?
  •  

    Fast forward 20 years. Shauzia reunites with Parvana at the beach, as they promised each other. Illustrate and write a new final chapter for the story, covering the reunion in which they discuss what has happened to each of them over the past two decades.

  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Social Sciences