Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

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During this school vacation, I’m reading lots of books that I’m considering for Inly’s summer reading list – yes, I’m making a list (see post below)!

The book I read today was Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai and about one minute after I closed the book, it was added to the “yes” column. Good story. Timely topic. Characters I cared about.

Here’s the situation. During the summer of 2001, 11-year-old Fadi and his family emigrate to San Francisco from Afghanistan. But in the confusion to board trucks that will take them on the first leg of their journey (into Pakistan), the family becomes separated, and Mariam, their six-year-old, is lost. Although the rest of the family arrives safely, Fadi struggles to integrate into his new school and feels guilty about what happened to his sister. Over time, Fadi finds joy in the school’s photography club, and spoiler alert: Mariam is found.

The downside of this novel is that some of it feels forced, but for the book’s audience – 5th to 7th grade readers – that’s okay. Kids don’t have the background knowledge that adult readers have and the direct explanations will be helpful. As a side note, it was interesting to read this book today. Every time I turned the radio on, I heard more about the U.S. Army sergeant who killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan. Because Senzai based Shooting Kabul on her husband’s experiences in 1979, it made the news feel  “closer,” like I knew something about those children.

On a different note, I love the play on words in Senzai’s title. When Fadi joins the photography club at his new school, the reader learns that he began taking pictures when he was still living in Afghanistan. “Shooting” Kabul – get it?


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