Buffalo: Groundwood Books, 2000

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The Breadwinner

Deborah Ellis

Buffalo: Groundwood Books, 2000


The Breadwinner is a coming-of-age book about a young girl living in present day Afghanistan. This book is set during the reign of the Taliban, so is very relevant to world news today. Her well-educated mother is forced to quit her job, and her father is falsely imprisoned, leaving her family without any means of support. Parvana must “become” a boy in order to earn a living reading letters and selling things in the market. The reader learns of life in war-torn Kabul through her eyes. There is a sequel, Parvana’s Journey, and a companion book, Mud City.

  1. Using a map of Afghanistan, create a map showing where the places in the book are. Create another map showing where events in the city of Kabul took place.

  1. Draw a time line showing the various battles and wars that have taken place in Afghanistan over the past 50 years. Discuss what life experiences someone 60, 40, 20, or 10 would have from their pasts.

  1. Find pictures of the dress of people during the rule of the Taliban. Show by drawing or cutting out pictures what both men and women were required to wear. Write a paragraph about what their clothes were like.

  1. Write a brief explanation (4 to 5 paragraphs) about what life would be like if you had to switch to being a boy or a girl. What would be the challenges of being someone else?

  1. Research the government of the Taliban. What were some rules and expectations they had? How did they come into power?

  1. Parvana constantly had to go draw water, and then her family would have to boil it. Why was this necessary? What are at least three things present in the untreated water that would make it necessary for it to be boiled? How do those things effect the body?

  1. Imagine you were helping Parvana’s mother write the articles for her new magazine. Pick a topic from the book that you think would be important to tell others about and write a one page magazine article about it.

  1. Write a series of at least three poems about Parvana, her family, her situation, and anything else that strikes you from her story.

  1. Imagine you are one of Parvana’s customers at the market. Write a letter for her to read that tells what her future will be like. This will require you to do research on events in Afghanistan in the past 5 years (the book takes place in 2000). You should include at least five details about the future of her country.

  2. Write a song that Parvana could sing to her children telling them about the experiences that she has in this book.

  1. Draw a picture of an important moment in the story (e.g., Parvana at her spot in the market). Write a brief description about your drawing explaining the background of what is going on.

  1. You are the voice of all of the voiceless women in Afghanistan. Write a letter, story, poem, or song to tell the rest of the world what you think they need to know about what Afghan women are experiencing.

  1. Draw an architectural layout (top view) of how you think Parvana’s home looked. Use graph paper and make everything to scale.

  1. The story ends without a definite resolution. Write a two-page story that tells about Parvana’s life after the end of the story. Make sure you answer some of the questions you had at the end of the book.

  1. Student choice – Make up your own activity that would relate to The Breadwinner. Be sure to present the idea to your teacher before you begin your work.

  1. In the story, Parvana’s older brother has been killed by land mines. Research what land mines are, how they are used, and why people use them.

There are fifteen activities in this contract. A contract is a written, formal agreement between two or more individuals. Each activity has a short description and necessary requirements. In addition to reading this book, you will complete a specified number of activities. After reading the information in this contract, decide the activities you would like to complete and what grade you hope to receive. Fill out the contract and give it to your teacher. Upon agreement, you, your parent(s)/guardian(s), and your teacher will sign the contract. The contract indicates your agreement of intent, or what you say you will accomplish. Your teacher will keep the signed contract on file. Remember: Each activity must be completed to the best of your ability to receive full credit for that activity.

10 activities = 100 points

9 activities = 90 points

8 activities = 80 points

7 activities = 70 points

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