If you haven’t read The Breadwinner novel, then you are in for a rare treat. This heartwarming story follows Parvana who lives in Afghanistan where the Taliban have recently taken over the country. They have taken away all women’s rights. Schools for girls are closed. Women lose their jobs. All females including teens must be accompanied by males and wear burqas when they go outside. Parvana who is a small eleven-year-old is allowed to go to the market with her father because he can’t walk without her help. Father lost his leg when the school where he was a teacher was bombed. Father tries to earn money for his family by reading letters to people in the market since most citizens are illiterate.
One day after dinner while Father tells the story of a brave young girl named Malali who leads men into a battle against the British in 1880, the Talibs burst into Parvana’s apartment and arrest Father. The soldiers rip open the cupboard and throw things out. As they go close to Father’s hidden books, Parvana yells at them to cause a distraction. In return, she is hit.
Read The Breadwinner to learn how Parvana uses the strength of her folk hero Malali to help her family survive this trying time by becoming the breadwinner.
The Breadwinner Novel Study Samples
Grab a free sample of The Breadwinner Novel Study. This download includes the printable version for Chapter 2.
Activities for The Breadwinner Novel
Activity #1 – Foods Mentioned in The Breadwinner Novel
Serve a meal or snack with the foods mentioned in the book. Parvana’s family drinks tea with nan at most meals. Apricots are an important symbol of friendship in the story. Put these food items together. If you have access to an oven, you can make a sweet flatbread pizza with nan topped with apricot jam, goat cheese, and prosciutto. YUM!
If you want to keep it simple, serve apricot jam over room temperature nan.
This activity can be completed any time after reading Chapter 9 in which apricots are introduced in the story.
Chapter 1 – Some, like the tea shop, had their own stalls. With such a big urn and so many trays of cups, it had to stay in one place. Tea boys ran back and forth into the labyrinth of the marketplace, carrying tea to customers who couldn’t leave their own shops, then running back again with the empty cups.
Chapter 2 – Ali was dozing on Mother’s lap, a piece of nan in his little fist. Every now and then he would realize he was falling asleep and would rouse himself, as if he hated the thought of missing something.
Interesting Note for Class Discussion:
Today, it is rare to see the word “naan” spelled “nan.”
“Nan” was the most common spelling for the bread with “naan” the less common variant. Today, this has switched with the least common variant becoming the most commonly used spelling. This spelling change is recent with “naan” first showing up in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1979.
Why do you think the author Deborah Ellis choose to spell the name of the bread nan?
Chapter 9 – Here, I brought you these.” She handed Parvana a small twist of paper holding several dried apricots, something she had not eaten in ages. She counted them. There was one for everyone in her household, and an extra one for her to eat now. She bit into it, and a wonderful sweetness flooded her mouth.
Activity #2 – Cultural Understanding
Have students research Afghanistan, its history, culture, and current events. This can provide a context for the events of the book and help students understand the cultural context of the story.
Discuss the role of women in Afghan society and how it is portrayed in the book. Have students compare and contrast gender roles in Afghanistan and their own society.
Have students examine the book’s portrayal of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Encourage them to consider different perspectives and consider the impact of the Taliban’s actions on the people of Afghanistan.
Activity #3 – Other Versions of the Story
In 2017, The Breadwinner novel was turned into an animated drama. The 94-minute-long film is rated 95% Fresh by critics who say the film contains stunning visuals. Critics also praise the film for confronting real-life issues.
Enough differences between the novel and film make it a great book-movie comparison activity for students. The sample handout contains printable activities plus an answer key for comparing the book to the movie.
Another option is to compare the graphic novel to the novel. The graphic novel follows the film.
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