- Age Range: 8 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 3 - 7
- Lexile Measure: 0920 (What's this?)
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Yearling (February 14, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0440419492
- ISBN-13: 978-0440419495
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 7.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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The Shadows of Ghadames Paperback – February 14, 2006
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The girl, Malika, lives in an ancient town of white washed houses isolated deep in the Sahara desert. Her father owns a caravan business and travels by camel train to far cities carting goods for sale and re-sale. He is a trader and merchant. Long ago he brought a woman from Timbuktu to be his second wife resulting in the birth of her brother and in the odd way that fertility sometimes works, in her own birth. Malika lives with the women, only with the women. Stolz gives us a look at her life, a life surprisingly full. It certainly contains a wide realm of secrets known only to the women of Ghadames.
We do not need to, nor are we asked to, approve of the life of seclusion the women of Ghadames suffer. They have very little power over their own lives. Malika's mother certainly did not have a say when her husband showed up after one of his trips with an extra wife. In a year or two Malika will marry some one her father chooses for her. And she, like her father's wives, will spend her life behind the door of their home with only the freedom of the roof top for space.
Stolz illuminates the lives of her characters for us, letting us see into a culture that still exists in places in the Muslim world.
This book aimed primarily at young female readers is so much beyond the usual tripe put out for teen and tween girls as to be in another category entirely.
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.
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. Without Malika's father around, the women take it upon themselves to hide and tend to the wounded man. Through this act of kindness, Malika grows to learn more about the world of the women, far above the ground, and what they are truly capable of in spite of their entrapment.
It was with great shock that I reached the end of this book, only to discover that "The Shadows of Ghadames" has been translated from the original text to what we read here. Originally the work of French author Joelle Stolz, the prose is lyrical and fascinating, without the stilted sentences that sometimes pepper a translated work. Better still, this book is interesting from page one onwards. There's a thrilling blindfolded race across a roof, lurid descriptions of the celebrations women have on their own, and complicated relations that never rely on black and white stereotypes. In most novels like this one, the young man rescued would turn out to have a saintly disposition and would teach Malika how to be her own woman. Stolz turns this convention on its head, instead having the young man sneer at the ministrations of the women, angrily curse their ignorance (which he sees as willful), and teaches Malika to read possibly because he has nothing else to do. Likewise, the fact that Malika's father has two wives at first seems peaceful and without conflict. Later we learn that the situation was initially very tenuous and it was only with the birth of Malika herself that each woman came to terms with the other.
This world is entirely unlike most that children read about in books. Stolz has created something new and fascinating. It's a land where the cries of women throughout the day, from rooftop to rooftop, tell the news. Where an entire citizenry remains above the actions of the men below. And best of all, it's a truly interesting book. There are no easy answers in "The Shadows of Ghadames". And there isn't that Hollywood happy ending where everything turns out hunky-dory at the finale. There's just a tale of how the oppressed can still live fulfilling lives in spite of their prisons. A great book of 2004.