Nasreen’s Secret School – Jeanette Winter, copyright 2009.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Nasreen’s Secret School was my second book for the August Social Justice Challenge and the first children’s book to be reviewed at Pink Sheep Cafe.
Life is depressing for Nasreen who must stay at home all day because it is forbidden for girls to attend school. Her life soon becomes even worse when her father is taken by the Taliban and her mother disappears while out searching for him. Nasreen’s grandmother becomes increasingly worried about the young girl and is determined to find a way to cheer her up. It is then that she starts hearing whispers about a secret school for girls. She must risk life and limb to get Nasreen to school each day, but she knows it is well worth the risk. She is convinced that her granddaughter will find happiness in this place.
Jeanette Winter does a wonderful job of illustrating the hope and promise that can be found at school and the irreversible benefits of an education. Nasreen’s Secret School is a very original story that fills a much needed gap; children’s imaginations will surely be captured by the story of a child who isn’t allowed to attend school. I am always interested in cross-cultural books or films similar to this that appeal to a very young audience. I am constantly looking for the Western bias. I love watching Disney’s Aladdin for this very reason. Winter does a wonderful job of avoiding the biases and, instead, embraces the cultural differences, if not so much in the story itself, then in her beautiful illustrations of the women in their head scarves and burkas. She portrays Herat, Nasreen’s town, as a beautiful city that is heralded for its historical significance rather than as a devastated or war-torn town. I highly recommend Nasreen’s Secret School for your preschoolers and new-to-school youngsters.
Nasreen’s Secret School is a Global Fund for Children Book.