Did I enjoy reading Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind? Not really. This Newbery Honor book doesn't fit my idea of what a Newbery or Newbery Honor book should be. I'm not sure that's fair on my part, and it could be a good thing to be a shockingly different children's book.
Shabanu is the young heroine of the novel. She's eleven or perhaps twelve. On the verge of "adulthood" in her culture, she's almost of marriageable age. Her wedding has already been arranged--a cousin--but it is about one year away still. Her sister's wedding, her sister is about thirteen, is months away when the novel opens. The arranged marriages for both of them are with their cousins. (I think one is 15, one 17. They are brothers). The novel is set in Pakistan. (I'm assuming contemporary-to-the-publication Pakistan). Shabanu and her family live in the desert, and live a more nomadic lifestyle. They travel from place to place depending on the time of year and the amount of water. Shabanu loves, loves, loves, LOVES tending the camels, and, she has definite favorites among them. She does not envy her sister being "all grown up." She enjoys the freedom she has as a child. Though it's not complete, absolute freedom ever. (I'm not saying it should be necessarily.)
The setting is interesting. Readers definitely get exposed to a whole new world, a camel-centric world. I thought there were at times a little too much information about the camels. (Warning: there's CAMEL SMUT)
If life had gone according to plan, the novel would not have taken a decidedly dark and depressing turn. But things went horribly wrong before her sister's wedding, and, Shabanu herself pays the price though she is not responsible or to blame for the souring of events. It seems most all the characters have a happier end than she herself does. That may or may not be completely realistic, but, it certainly isn't fair. It may push the extremes of what children consider NOT FAIR.
I'm not sure what response readers are to have with a novel like this. Shabanu may be the first or one of the first books readers come across that either a) stars a Muslim family, features a Muslim heroine, OR b) is set in Pakistan. I doubt the impression of either will be a good one, if that makes sense. Especially considering the ending.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews