182p. Feiwel & Friends. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-312-60659-6.
Gr 4–8—Friendship transcends cultural and generational differences in this deeply moving novel. It's been six years since Aman and his mother escaped a nightmarish existence under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for a better life in England. However, their request for asylum is denied, and they're sent to an immigration detention center to await deportation. After several appeals for release go unheeded, they begin to lose hope. Aman's best friend, Matt, shares the tragic details with his journalist grandfather in the hope that he'll visit Aman and write an article garnering public sympathy. Grandpa visits Aman, and after a tense start, gets the boy to open up. At the heart of the story is Shadow, a bomb-sniffing dog for the British army who becomes attached to Aman in Afghanistan after being separated from her unit. Shadow's presence reassures Aman and his mother, as they trek from their village to Kandahar, where they are miraculously reunited with the dog's unit. The memory of Shadow's resilience buoys the teen and his mother as they continue their arduous journey to England. As he did in War Horse (William Morrow, 1983), Morpurgo displays keen sensitivity in using the intense bonds between young people and animals to relate the devastating impacts of war. A useful postcript provides facts about the war in Afghanistan, the real-life Yarl's Wood detention center in Bedfordshire, and bomb-sniffing dogs. Shadow succeeds in evoking empathy and inspiring readers to take a stand for their beliefs.Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA
As Aman, a young asylum seeker from Bamiyan, Afghanistan, sits in a British detention center waiting to be deported, his best friend Matt is determined to help. Matt tells his retired-journalist grandfather of Aman’s plight and persuades him to visit Aman in the deportation center. There Aman tells Matt’s grandfather the story about the talented spaniel (he could sniff out IEDs) he once saved in the caves of Bamiyan. Aman remembers everything: the destruction of the famous stone Buddha sculptures of Bamiyan, the Taliban’s firm grip, family members’ deaths and disappearances, landmines, and that amazing dog (called Shadow by Aman and Polly by his British-soldier trainer). Grandfather’s dormant journalistic skills are awakened. Not only does he listen to Aman’s stories but he orchestrates a protest at the deportation center and reunites Aman with the dog and soldier-trainer from Afghanistan. The tale is filled with coincidences, prayerful hopes, and prophetic dreams, all of which come together to lift this story without becoming unduly sentimental. Shadow is the perfect book for classroom teachers looking for a contemporary tale of the old, sad story: war’s devastating ramifications for everyone, including children. robin l. smith

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