Review of ‘Shahana’
Written by Rosanne Hawke. Series editor Lyn White.
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Age Range: Upper Pimary – Lower Secondary
Themes: war, conflict, grief, family, hope, adversity, Rights of Children, culture, survival.
The latest read for my Year Six/Seven bookclub has been ‘Shahana’ by Rosanne Hawke. It is the first book in a series called ‘Through My Eyes’. This series seeks to provide young readers with an insight into the lives of children who are living in conflict zones throughout the world. The excellent teachers notes for each book “present a range of learning experience for units of work that promote the development of the knowledge, skills and behaviours designed to extend students’ understanding of themselves and the human experience, empowering them to become active global citizens” (Allen and Unwin Teaching and Learning Guide).
The books in this series are powerful, poignant and important books for our young people to read and ‘Shahana’ was an excellent choice for our bookclub, as any of the titles in this series would be. Shahana is an orphaned, thirteen year old Muslin girl. She lives with her nine year old brother, Tanveer, in a remote mountain village in Kashmir, close to the Line of Control that separates Azad Kashmir from India-occupied Kashmir. These young children have only ever known war, danger and grief.
Author Rosanne Hawke worked as an aid worker in Northern Pakistan for some time and her passion for this country and the plight of the children living there shines through in her writing. The subject matter is confronting but age appropriate and ultimately this story is one of resilience, strength and hope above all else. It will challenge young readers but it will also inspire them and open their eyes to the lives of children around the world.
Each book in the series can be purchased by clicking on the covers below. I also highly recommend the book ‘We are All Born Free’ for all home, school and library collections as a staring point for understanding the rights of children throughout the world. Discussion questions for ‘Shahana’ are below – and are loosely based on the ideas from the Allen and Unwin Teaching and Learning Guide for ‘Shahana’.
General Discussion Questions
‘Shahana’ is set in South-East Asia and thus supports the cross-curriculum priority of exploring ‘Asia literacy’: Recognise and explain differing viewpoints about the world, culture, individual people and concerns represented in text (ACELT1807). Shahana is also an excellent starting point for supporting the key themes in global education including:
- Identity and cultural diversity
- Social Justice and human rights
- Peace building and conflict resolution
- Civics and citizenship
- Values education.
What is realistic fiction? What other books in this genre have you read?
The Australian Curriculum: English
Make connections between students’ own experiences and those of characters and events represented in texts drawn from different, historical, social and cultural contexts. (ACELT1613).
This book is set in Kashmir – very different from Australia. Did you find it difficult to picture the setting? How did the author create a sense of place?
Do the characters seem real and believable? Did you enjoy reading about a girl your own age yet in a totally different setting from your own? Where there any similarities between Shahana’s life and your own?
The Australian Curriculum: English
Identify aspects of literary texts that convey details or information about particular social, cultural and historical contexts. (ACELT1608)
Did you know much about the historical events of this book before you began the book? Do you feel you know more about Kashmir since reading this book?
Some of the terminology would have been unfamiliar to you – line of control, conflict zone, half-widow, debt-bondage, charpoy. How did you discover what these terms meant?
Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC)
‘Shahana’ raises issues of the rights of children and how these rights are affected by war and conflict. Some of the CRC rights violated in ‘Shahana’ are outlined on page 18 and 19 of the teachers’ notes for this book. Examine these and discuss how their rights could be improved and which must be addressed first.
We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures is an excellent starting point for understanding human rights.
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