CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 14. . . .December 3, 2010.
Thunder Over Kandahar.
Sharon McKay. Photographs by Rafal Gerszak.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2010.
260 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-266-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-267-6 (hc.).
Afghan War, 2001- -Juvenile fiction.
Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Michelle Superle.
Yasmine pulled back. “Tamanna, he could be the child of a Talib or the son of a warlord. He could be anyone.”
Tamanna did not respond. Yasmine looked closely at her friend. Her face was gray, her eyes half closed and dull. Worse, she was sweating. She has a fever, thought Yasmine. It was a snap decision. She looked back at the boy, who continued to motion to them, then reached over and pulled Tamana to her feet. “Lean on me.” They followed the boy.
Sharon McKay is a veteran on the Canadian children’s literature scene, but she is the first writer for young people to be designated a Canadian war artist. The result of her post, during which she spent three weeks in Afghanistan doing research, is the new YA novel, Thunder over Kandahar.
Due to her long experience and success writing for youth and short yet intense experience in the field, McKay has created a compelling exploration of the ways the Taliban regime’s influence affects not only Afghani girls seeking to become educated, but also its far-reaching effects on whole families and communities. Without ever reading like a textbook or propaganda, Thunder over Kandahar provides insight into girls’ experiences in this terrifying chasm of ideological upheaval.
The story begins with protagonist Yasmine’s dissatisfaction at moving from England, where she was raised, to Afghanistan, where her parents were raised. What begins with (justifiable, understandable) sulking descends into horror, confusion, and ultimately traumatic displacement. When Yasmine’s mother is badly injured, her family is forced to hide out in an extremely traditional village where they end up in even greater danger. After becoming separated from her parents, Yasmine partners with the abused village girl who had become their servant. Together, the girls flee to the border, hoping to survive and escape. They become like sisters during their harrowing journey which culminates in Yasmine’s martyr-like sacrifice for her friend. Although the events in this plot-focussed tale may, at moments, seem far-fetched or over the top, when read as a composite of the situations faced often by many Afghani girls and women. it rings true, particularly as it is built upon the strength of McKay’s thorough research.
Thunder over Kandahar provides a gripping, empathetic look at one of the most dangerous and misogynistic societies in existence today through the believable, inspiring characters of Yasmine and her friend Tamanna. As well as providing a satisfying reading experience, the book is a valuable supplement to various Social Studies curricula. Thunder over Kandahar will be an asset to all Canadian libraries and classrooms.
Michelle Superle holds a PhD in children’s literature from Newcastle University. A jury member of the TD Children’s Literature Award, she has taught children’s literature and creative writing at the University of the Fraser Valley and York University and currently teaches writing courses at Okanagan College.
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