The Library Bus
The Library Bus
When the lesson ends, a girl in a yellow dress skips over to Pari. “Are you new here?” she asks. “What’s your name? Do you live here on the bus? Can you print A, B, C? I can print the letters all the way to Z.” She talks very fast.
“I can print them too,” Pari says quickly. But Pari can’t even read or write in Farsi yet.
It is Pari’s first day helping her mama on the library bus! As they drive to villages and refugee camps in Afghanistan, Pari meets many young girls and participates in circle times run by her mother. But will she ever master her ABCs?
The text sweetly follows young Pari as she assists her mother and learns a little bit about why her mother runs a library bus. When her mother was young, girls were not allowed to read, and so her father taught her in secret. While Pari’s mother can only visit locations once a week, she does her best to help young girls learn basic English and learn to read. She believes that education equals freedom.
More than anything, The Library Bus is a slice-of-life book that takes the reader through a typical day of an Afghani library bus. Along the way, the story subtly drops points of information that will leave readers with much to think about and discuss. This book is notable for depicting Afghanistan without fear or violence. The only reference to hardship is the description of the refugee camp mother and daughter visit, and, even then, dust and patched clothes are only briefly mentioned. The author’s Afterword provides clear reasoning for doing so and may influence adult readers to reconsider some of their own assumptions.
The illustrations, created using watercolour and digital media, are lovely and bring the setting to life. From a rural home with goats to a city with many buildings, readers will see a selection of Afghanistan’s many faces. The palette is colourful though slightly muted, complementing the arid setting. Girls are depicted with a small variety of hair colours, some sporting head coverings and some not, and all characters have the same medium-pale complexion. There is no representation of characters with disabilities.
The Library Bus is a gentle day-in-the-life book that introduces readers to a beautiful country.
Sadie Tucker is a children’s librarian at the Vancouver Public Library.