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The Shadows of Ghadames (Mildred L. Batchelder Award Book (Awards)) Hardcover – October 12, 2004

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 920L (What's this?)
  • Series: Mildred L. Batchelder Award Book (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (October 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385731043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385731041
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,503,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8–In Libya at the end of the 19th century, upper-class women were confined to their homes and rooftops, leading a quiet life filled with household tasks. Nearly 12, Malika is about to enter that world, although not without regret for the loss of freedom and the education her brother has. Her father's two wives offer her good models: her upper-class mother, the "wife from home," who calmly runs the household, and her brother's mother, the "wife from the journey," who moves more freely about the city, still veiled and hiding in dark alleys when a man appears. In spite of their upbringing and their husband's departure on business, the two women rescue a man injured outside their home. Abdelkarim remains hidden with them while they nurse his wounds, and as he recovers, he and Malika come to see that the world of women is richer than they thought. He teaches Malika her alphabet before he is smuggled away, and her mother, admitting that times are changing, finally agrees to let her learn to read. This quiet story is notable for the intimate picture of the traditional Muslim world that it conveys; unfortunately, not until the author's note at the end is the time period made evident. The imprecise use of language may make it difficult for readers to visualize this distant world and to understand the characters' motivations. Still, this novel would be useful in schools studying this part of the world.–Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 6-10. In the Libyan city of Ghadames at the end of the nineteenth century, Malika is dreading her twelfth birthday. That is the time when, according to her family's Berber customs, she will be close to marriageable age and confined to the world of women. In Ghadames that means restriction to the rooftops, "a city above the city, an open sunny town for women only, where . . . they never talk to men." Malika longs to live beyond the segregated city and travel, like her father, a trader. But the wider world comes to Malika after her father's two wives agree to harbor, in secret, a wounded stranger. The story of an outsider who unsettles a household and helps a young person to grow is certainly nothing new, and some of the lessons here are purposeful. But Stolz invigorates her tale with elegant prose and a deft portrayal of a girl verging on adolescence. The vivid backdrop is intoxicating, but the story's universal concerns will touch readers most: sibling jealously, confusion about adult customs, and a growing interest in a world beyond family. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A bit of context. When I reviewed "Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind" (a tale about a Pakistani nomadic daughter and her struggle against repression), I characterized it as a slow moving epic. The kind of thing that kids should read but that if you forced it down their gullets they'd immediately detest. And though "The Shadows of Ghadames" is similar to "Shabanu" in a number of ways, I simply cannot repeat this advice. Here we have a small, unassuming, but brilliantly succinct encapsulation of the maturity of a young woman in late nineteenth century southern Libya. The book is fascinating and short, but says everything in its mere 118 pages that needs to be said. Unlike some historical fiction novels written for children, I'll be recommending this book to any and every kid I see. It's an infinitely interesting look at a world unlike our own but can (as "Shabanu" author Suzanne Fisher Staples says in her blurb on the back of the book), "explore universal truths about the condition of being human".

Once again Malika's father is taking off from the city of Ghadames to sell his wares to lands distant from his daughter's home. As a girl, Malika is finding the freedoms she experienced as a child curtailed with the approach of puberty. Soon she will be condemned to remain on the rooftops of the city where all the women live, like her mother and her father's second wife Bilkisu. Malika challenges a society where she isn't allowed to learn to read and where the only garden she'll soon be seeing is the red one painted on the walls of the roofs. It isn't long before such brooding is changed to fear, however, when she and Bilkisu discover an injured man, hunted by the townspeople for preaching a different religion.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Drama/English teacher on July 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
A character study, a novel of historical fiction, an young adult's introduction to foreign culture, or a bold little step in the story of gender equality -- it does not matter why this book was read or how someone chose to categorized it; it succeeds on all fronts.

A little glimpse into the world of a late-18th century Libyan 12-year-old girl is, by no means, an oversaturated subject matter in the world of books these days (if ever!). It is, however, perhaps all the more reason to pick it up. This is unexplored territory for almost every reader, and THE SHADOWS OF GHADAMES should not disappoint any of them.

The story of Malika is character-driven with an engaging, fresh plotline that showcases the inserted "you've never been here before" set of facts about cultural, religious, culinary and societal customs that don't seem forced, thank God. The introduction of what might seem to be uncomfortable subject matter like polygamy is handled beautifully, if not artfully, and it is absolutely clear to me that the author truly respects all of her characters.

Part of the success of this work is also due to Catherine Temerson's magnificent translation that is alive with beautiful, poetic language. Her work (translated from the original French) has nuance and energy, and is a delight to read.

I recommend this book for whatever reason you can find to pick it up, particularly because of the contrast you'll find with our current technological world. Today's students (at least mine) demand that things happen for them and that they're entertained, and for them there is little satisfaction in quiet, thoughtful solitude. As a contrast to the "I'm SOOO bored," mantra of today's youth, I think we really need our children to develop perspective and alternatives to the ever-present materialism and noise of 2007. THE SHADOWS OF GHADAMES is an excellent introduction to that lesson.
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