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Shooting Kabul (The Kabul Chronicles) Paperback – July 12, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—In July 2001, as 11-year-old Fadi and his family hastily board a truck to begin their escape from Afghanistan, six-year-old Mariam lets go of her brother's hand and is tragically left behind. Their arrival in San Francisco is bittersweet as they are all too concerned about Mariam to appreciate their newfound safety and freedom. Fadi struggles with integrating himself into American middle school culture, eventually finding solace in the photography club. Still, he is most concerned with the part he played in losing Mariam and getting her back. A photography contest with the prize of a trip to India seems to be his best means of finding a way back to Afghanistan to help in the search for his sister. This is a sweet story of family unity, and readers will learn about Afghani Pukhtun culture. Occasionally Senzai relies too heavily on telling when showing would be more effective. Also, at times the dialogue seems inauthentic because it contains more historical detail than would be likely among people of the same background. The relevance of occasional references to E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (S & S, 1970), which Fadi is reading, is never truly clear. That said, this is a worthwhile book about the immigrant experience in general, and Afghani culture specifically. Fadi is a likable hero who learns from his mistakes, and whose talent allows him to make a unique contribution to finding his sister, for the inevitable happy ending.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Beginning in the months before 9/11, this sensitive, timely debut follows an Afghan family's emigration to San Francisco. After receiving a PhD in the U.S. and returning to Kabul to help rebuild the country, Fadi's father has grown disillusioned with the Taliban (“These are not true Muslims”), and he pays human traffickers to smuggle his family into Pakistan. During the terrifying flight, Fadi's six-year-old sister, Mariam, is lost. After fruitless, life-risking searches, the grief-stricken family tries to begin anew in California, while overseas efforts to find Mariam continue. Conversations often feel purposeful as Senzai educates readers about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Afghan cultural diversity, and the Qur'an's fundamental messages of peace. But she writes with powerful, realistic detail about Fadi's family's experiences, particularly the prejudice Fadi finds at school after planes hit the Twin Towers and the guilt he suffers over Mariam's disappearance. An abrupt but satisfying contrivance brings this illuminating docu-novel to a joyful conclusion, and young readers may well want to move on to the appended resources to learn more. Grades 4-7. --Gillian Engberg --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 800 (What's this?)
  • Series: The Kabul Chronicles
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books; Reprint edition (July 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442401958
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442401952
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am often very kind in my assessment of particular books because of their purpose. Such is the case with "Shooting Kabul" by newcomer to writing, N. H. Senzai, who grew up in San Francisco and Saudi Arabia. She tells the reader it is a story that had to be told, one that continued to niggle at the back of her head.

"Shooting Kabul" is loosely based on her husband as a child and his family leaving Afghanistan because of the Taliban. It involves degrees in agriculture earned in the United States and a return to Afghanistan to improve farming techniques. After the Taliban's return to primitivism and total control of government and culture, the family's efforts (and efforts of many other families) were no longer wanted. It became unsafe to stay, thus a dark-of-night escape to asylum in the United States.

But that's not why I gave this book five stars. The writing, plotting, characters, plot conflicts--all would rate four stars. Ends are too conveniently tied and plot events are manipulated. But guess what? I don't care. What makes this book stand out and why it gets five stars requires a list. Here's why "Shooting Kabul" is a five-star book for children 9-12 and any older audience who wants to know more about Afghan culture.

1. The novel provides an up-close look at a typical Afghan family, actually, a Pukhtun family. The Pukhtuns make up the largest ethnic group of the Afghan peoples, comprising 42 percent of the population. The reader learns a little about religion, language, food, daily habits, family life. A "little" means just enough to weave into the story without overdoing it. The glossary of unfamiliar names and Afghan factos is included in the back of the book, as well as a further reading list.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
To be honest, I struggled with this book from the beginning. After a couple of chapters, I finally started to realize my struggle with the text. There are moments of flashbacks embedded into the story that I wasn't realizing at first. That, coupled with the cultural terms and vocabulary kept me at bay. Once I got that figured out, the story began to flow more easily for me. While reading it for my own pleasure, I also couldn't help but wonder if this would be an appropriate selected to include in my 5th grade classroom for my students to read. After I became fully involved with the book and attached to Fadi, the main character, I knew that the challenges I felt could be easily resolved by providing my students with a little heads-up as to what to expect. In the end, this was a beautiful story which again opened my eyes to the fact that there are people on this earth who lump everyone of a particular culture into the same pot. It reminded me a great deal of my conversations with my daughter when she was stationed overseas during a deployment with the US Army. She made it perfectly clear to me that it was important to not blame the negative doings of some people in a particular culture on the entire culture itself. I will definitely be purchasing this book to add to my classroom library. It'll be a great addition to my historical fiction genre - especially one where my students can learn a lesson on accepting people of all cultures and beliefs.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My son hears the news on the radio, but this put a personal note to the troubles in Afghanistan. This was a good story, although sometimes it could have gone in depth more (for me). For my son it was perfect. He asked questions and really learned from it. He did a report on it for school because he found it so intriguing.
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Format: Hardcover
A family of five escapes from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the dark of night. They throw themselves aboard a truck along with numbers of other desperate people, just minutes ahead of the patrolling Taliban. They are on their way to America. Only something unbearably horrible has happened: the youngest, six-year-old Mariam, did not make it aboard the truck--and there is no going back to get her.

Many stories start with an event that drives the rest of the story with its cry for resolution. This event, in the first pages of SHOOTING KABUL, grips the rest of the story with a barely containable wail for resolution. Yet Sensai manages to pace the everpresent anguish with the reality of any immigrant family adjusting to life in America in a very realistic and non-maudlin way.

The narrator of this story is Mariam's 11 year-old brother Fadi. Fadi let go of Mariam's hand as they were jumping in the truck and thus bears a heightened burden of guilt. His struggle to deal with his guilt as he tries to fit into his new life makes up the bulk of the story. The resolution is satisfying, evolving out of his strengths rather than his vulnerabilities..

This is a perfect book for middle school readers who like to read about people caught up in real, historically significant events, who are driven to understand more about their wider world. The tragedy that Fadi experiences will grab their interest and their empathy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fadi is a sweet Afghan boy who adores photography, the novel FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER, and his family. Fleeing from the Taliban in a truck with other escapees, his family loses his little sister Mariam. It is too dangerous to turn back and find Mariam, which causes heartache for the whole family. Settling in the United States in a post 9/11 atmosphere, Fadi rockily adjusts to life in California. Money is tight, classmates are bigots and, most importantly, he misses Mariam. An opportunity presents itself: there is a chance to find Mariam, and Fadi is determined to do whatever it takes to save his little sister in a Claudia-like/Mixed-Up Files fashion. Warning: You may need a box of tissue at hand while reading this. This was beautifully written and it's something I would read again.
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