Book #14 – Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai


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Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai was recommended by one club member that got it as a Christmas present.  I was worried about doing a book about such a heavy subject – a family fleeing Afghanistan and the Taliban loses their six year-old daughter and Fadi, her eleven year-old brother believes it is his fault.  In this book you feel the fear rising up in Fadi as they hide from the Taliban and jump onto a truck promising to take them away from the terror they are living.  You feel Fadi’s desperation to keep Miriam with him as instructed and his overwhelming guilt when her hand slips out of his as the truck speeds away.

I was on the edge of my seat during this entire book, praying that Miriam would be found safely and empathizing with Fadi as he struggles with fitting in at an American school where 9/11 has made him a target for bullies and bigots alike.

The themes in this book were rich and difficult, so I tried to keep a balance between discussing the hard stuff and having fun discovering new cultures.  We sat on the floor to have our snacks like they take their meals in the book.  That set  a good mood to discuss the difficult questions of prejudice, guilt, and tolerance.  We went over some of the questions from the official Readers’ Guide (http://www.nhsenzai.com/storage/SHOOTING%20KABUL_reading%20guide.pdf).  Interestingly, they found the unfamiliar character names the hardest thing to get their head around rather than the content.  I couldn’t really blame them – I have a hard time keeping track of characters when I can’t easily recognize the names either.  But after discussing the best way to pronounce Fadi and Habib, we talked about times when they felt guilty and how they help new kids fit into their school.  I then gave the kids a map of Afghanistan and a crossword puzzle to allow them to “show what they know” (Shooting Kabul Crossword Puzzle & Map).

Our next activity was to discuss how kids (and people in general) all over the world can seem so different but can still be the same.  I used a worksheet from Scholastic called Kids are Kids (Shooting Kabul – Kids are Kids Scholastic Skills Page) and we filled it out together.  The biggest differences they came up with were about how we eat, who can go to school (boys versus girls), and how much religion plays in our daily lives.  But the similarities were more important – we all feel guilty, sad, happy; brothers and sisters treat each other the same; we all love our families.

But the last activity was definitely the highlight of the meeting.  I split them into groups of 2-3, each with a digital camera.  Using a handout for guidelines of taking interesting pictures ( Shooting Kabul – Photo Tips), the groups went around the house experimenting with their cameras.  They were so engaged, I didn’t have the heart to stop them in time to download all the pictures before the end of the meeting.  Instead I let them click away, and made a slide show for them to watch at the beginning of our next meeting.  We all agreed that  in that short amount of time they came out with some really amazing shots!


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An avid reader of practically anything and trying to share that passion with my kids and anyone else that will listen!

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  1. Thank you so much for all the help. I love your blog 🙂 I’ll surely try reading “THE BREADWINNER” soon. Thanks!

  2. This is a indeed a great book for the book club. I enjoyed reading it.
    Did you have any other discussion questions apart from what was in the book ? Do you also have a sample of the squares that you did? Can you please share them if possible?

    1. I didn’t have additional questions other than what popped up while we worked. We mostly talked about when new kids had come to their schools and how they were treated. I also dug around some more and found the “Kids are Kids” worksheet on the Scholastic Website (thanks for pushing me to finish the post!) and added a copy and a link above. This year we also did a related book, The Breadwinner which I will be posting later – keep checking!

  3. I facilitate a book club for 5th graders and their parents at our school. We are reading SHOOTING KABUL now. I heard about this book on NPR’s Backseat Book Club for kids. I read it and loved all the themes it introduces. Thanks for all your great ideas. I am definitely going to have them try some photography! How cool that NH Sensai commented!

    1. This will be a great book to discuss with parents and kids. The one other activity I did was from Scholastic but I can no longer find the link. Basically, you draw two squares on a sheet of paper so that part of one square is overlapping the other. Label one square “Kids in Afghanistan” and the other “Kids in Canada/U.S.” Have participants write down things that are unique to each culture in each individual square and things that are similar in the overlapping portion. It provides a good discussion about how we might have different chores and food, but we all love our family, like to play, and want to have friends. Happy Reading!

    1. The Bookworm Bookclub is psyched that you posted on our blog! Thanks for writing such a great book! And we agree that photography is amazing!

      The Bookworm Bookclub

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