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!