Razia's Ray of Hope: One Girl's Dream of an Education

illus. by Suana Verelst. 36p. (CitizenKid Series). glossary. photos. websites. Kids Can. Sept. 2013. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-55453-816-4.
Gr 3–5—This story was inspired by Razia Jan, an Afghani woman who lived in the U.S. but returned to Kabul to build the first girls' school there. A fictional youngster named Razia longs to go to the newly opened school for girls but must have permission from her father and oldest brother. Both the prose and the plot are predictable-her relatives refuse: "Next you'll want Razia to go into town to shop by herself," says her father to the child's supportive grandfather. "Or for women to shed their burqas in public," her brother adds. In the end, the real Razia Jan appears to convince the men, and the child is permitted to go to school. In contrast, there is nothing ordinary about the mixed-media illustrations. Each spread is a combination of muted colors, block-print designs, and evocative collage portraits of elders, active children, and the blue backs of burqa-clad women, interspersed with photographs of everyday objects: a teapot, a wool blanket, colored pencils in the school. Back matter includes a glossary of Dari words, and suggested classroom activities and discussion. Also included is a short biography of Razia Jan and a photo of her with three grinning schoolgirls. The photo brings the fictional story to life, illuminating that part of the world in which girls beg to go to school, then bring their workbooks home to teach their mothers.—Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

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