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Books on Afghanistan for Primary through High School Students

Primary Grades

A Key to the Hearts .  Laura Simms.  Chocolate Sauce, Inc. 2003.  Grades 3 – 6

A collection of Afghan Folk Tales.  Illustrated by Children of Afghanistan and America.


Caravan. Lawrence McKay. New York: Lee and Low, 1995. Grades 1-4

A ten-year-old boy accompanies his father for the first time on a caravan trip through the mountains of Afghanistan to the city below to trade their goods at market.


The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water. Idries Shah. Boston: Hoopoe Books, 1993. Grades K-2

As he gapes and growls at his ferocious reflection in a pool of water as shiny as a mirror, a terrified lion grows desperately thirsty. (Afghan folktale)

The Man and the Fox. Idries Shah. Boston: Hoopoe Books, 2006. Grades K-3.

Mallam's rich full-color illustrations in a folk style evoke an unfamiliar culture, while the clever fox reminds readers of characters in familiar fables.

The Man with Bad Manners. Boston: Hoopoe Books, 2003. Grades Preschool-3

A clever boy and other villagers devise a plan to improve the manners of one of their neighbors. (Afghan folktale)

The Old Woman and the Eagle. Idries Shah. Boston: Hoopoe Books, 2003. Grades K-2.

A Sufi teaching tale from Afghanistan about an old woman who insists that an eagle must really be a pigeon.

The Roses in My Carpets. Rukhsana Khan. New York: Holiday House, 1998. Grades 2-3

This realistic story follows a day in the life of a young Afghan refugee who takes solace in the beautiful carpets he weaves.

Ruler of the Courtyard. Rukhsana Khan. New York: Viking, 2003. Grades K-3

After confronting what she believes to be a snake in the bath house, Saba finds the courage to overcome her fear of the chickens in the courtyard. Based on a folktale from Afghanistan.

Tales Told in Tents: Stories from Central Asia. Sally Pomme Clayton. London: Frances Lincoln, 2005. Grades 2-4

In 12 traditional stories from the nomadic cultures of Central Asia, folklorist Clayton retells myth and folklore she heard in Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Middle School and High School

The Breadwinner. Deborah Ellis. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2001.Grades 5-8

Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women's freedom and behavior, eleven-year-old Parvana must disguise herself as a boy so that her family can survive after her father's arrest.

Camel Bells, Janne Carlsson. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2002. Ages 9-12

In the late 1970s, Hajdar leaves his village in the countryside of Afghanistan for the excitement of the capital city Kabul, but he and his family are swept up in the turmoil when the Soviet Union invades his country.

Come Back to Afghanistan: A California Teenager's Story. Said Hyder Akbar &  Susan Burton. New York: Bloomsbury. 2005. Grades 8+

Akbar's refreshingly unsentimental reminiscences of visiting his father's homeland as a teen make for an intriguing portrait of Afghanistan at a time of significant transition.

Haveli. Suzanne Fisher Staples. New York: Knopf, 1993. Ages 12+

Having relented to the ways of her people in Pakistan and married the rich older man to whom she was pledged against her will, Shabanu is now the victim of his family's blood feud and the malice of his other wives. Sequel to "Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind."

Mud City. Deborah Ellis. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2004. Grades 4-7.

In the third book in the Breadwinner Trilogy, orphan Afghan refugee Shauzia leaves the rough Pakistan border camp and joins other homeless children on the streets of the city of Peshawar.

My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban. Latifa. New York: Hyperion, 2001. High School

Before the Taliban takeover, Latifa's life revolved around school, friends, parties, and movies. Suddenly, she was confined to her apartment, unable to venture out uncovered by the hated burka.

Parvana’s Journey. Deborah Ellis. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2003. Grades 7-10.

Thirteen year-old Parvana and other Afghan children search the countryside for missing parents. Sequel to The Breadwinner.

Refugees. Catherine Stine. New York: Delacorte, 2005. Grades 9-12

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Dawn, a sixteen-year-old runaway from San Francisco, connects by phone and email with Johar, a gentle, fifteen-year-old Afghan who assists Dawn's foster mother, a doctor, at a Red Cross refugee camp in Peshawar.

Under the Persimmon Tree. Suzanne Fisher Staples. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Ages 12+

During the 2001 Afghan War, the lives of Najmal, a young refugee from Kunduz, Afghanistan, and Nusrat, an American-Muslim teacher who is awaiting her husband's return from Mazar-i-Sharif, intersect at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.


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