Monday, 31 May 2010
186 pages, Paperback
Children's, 10+, Cultural
Nayuleska's recommended rating:♥♥♥♥♥
Summary from Frances Lincoln.
Mahtab was empty. She felt hungry...for water, for her father, for her grandmother, her aunts and uncles, for the trees in the back yard, the cabinet on the wall, the silver and glass objects so lovingly collected, for her mountains, the jagged peaks that cut the sky. Her father was dead. She felt sure of it. She was just a speck of dirt on the floor, drifting through the gap between the boards, falling to the ground.
Mahtab and her family are forced to leave their home in Herat and journey secretly through the rocky mountains to Pakistan and from there to faraway Australia. Months go by, months of waiting, months of dread. Will they ever be reunited with their father, will they ever find a home?
Stories like instantly have my rushing for the tissues box. I like real-life inspired fiction because it is a reminder of what happens in the world. Mahtab doesn't have it easy. There's the emotional hardships; leaving her life behind for a new one, the fear of being caught, the anxiety over seeing her father again. There's the physical hardships: staying cramped on a vehicle for days, having so little to eat and drink, not seeing a doctor when she's sick. There are other hardships as well, but those are the main ones.
These hardships would be tough on a healthy adult. But for a child, it's a huge ordeal. Mahtab doesn't necessarily have as large an understanding about the situation as her mother (she's protected from some of the emotional hardship by being a child), but her fear is real. Her mother tells her a lot so she can be strong for her younger brothers. What she goes through, sadly, is becoming a common tale. Many people flee their homes for the safety of other countries. Mahtab's tale shows that it is far from easy. The conditions don't ease up when they enter the safe country either. The places where asylum seekers have to live, (detention centres?) are adequate, but life within the walls is hard.
Imagine being separated from freedom by just a wire fence. To see that free world every day, and not know if you'll ever be a part of it. Just think about it has me tearing up.
Somehow, Mahtab keeps going. She struggles to cope with traumas of the trip, but she survives. I've met a few people like Mahtab. Looking at them, I never knew their background. I was horrified as I heard their tale (from someone else who knew hat happened). I would like to think that safe countries could make their detention centres nicer places for asylum seekers, and that we can help as many people as possible to live in safety.
I liked how the story in the book was split up into short sections, making it easier to read for the intended age group. It was clever how the sentences ran into each other on purpose when Mahtab became ill at one point in the story - as I reader I could feel her confusion.
Check out Libby Gleeson's impressive collection of published work on her website.
For another realistic story, try Bone by Bone by Bone, by Tony Johnston