“Shauzia enables Ellis to tell the story of Afghans living as refugees in Pakistan and surviving as beggars and scavengers in the mean streets of Peshawar…The episodic plotting of Mud City enables Deborah Ellis to show her young and mainly western readers what many have likely never read of or considered deeply before.” —Judy Brown, Canadian Literature
Fourteen-year-old Shauzia dreams of seeing the ocean and eventually making a new life in France, but it is hard to reconcile that dream with the terrible conditions of the Afghan refugee camp where she lives. Making things worse is the camp’s leader, Mrs. Weera, whose demands on Shauzia make her need to escape all the more urgent. Her decision to leave necessitates Shauzia dress like a boy, as her friend Parvana did, to earn money to buy passage out. But her journey becomes a struggle to survive as she’s forced to beg and pick through garbage, eventually landing in jail. An apparent rescue by a well-meaning American family gives her hope again, but will it last? And where will she end up? Mud City is the final book in the acclaimed trilogy that includes The Breadwinner (a best-seller) and Parvana’s Journey. It paints a devastating portrait of life in refugee camps, where so many children around the world are trapped, some for their whole lives. But it also tells movingly of these kids’ resourcefulness and strength, which help them survive these unimaginable circumstances.
Reviews & Accolades
“Like The Breadwinner and Parvana’s Journey, this novel conveys a distinctive sense of place, describing in discomfiting detail the sights and sounds of the impoverished refugee camp and the poorest sections of Peshawar.” —Kathleen Isaacs, School Library Journal
“The story is strong on message, and in a final note, Ellis fills in the recent history about Afghanistan, the Taliban’s restrictions on women, and the millions of new, desperate refugees. Middle-school readers will be caught up in the cause and in the elemental survival adventure, especially because Shauzia is no sweet waif; she’s mean, insolent, and rebellious. Her struggle with the rough Mrs. Weera reveals that they are both strong and brave.” —Hazel Rochman, Booklist
“…Where Parvana represents the child workers of Kabul and the Afghan IDPs (internally displaced persons) made homeless by civil conflict, Shauzia enables Ellis to tell the story of Afghans living as refugees in Pakistan and surviving as beggars and scavengers in the mean streets of Peshawar…The episodic plotting of Mud City enables Deborah Ellis to show her young and mainly western readers what many have likely never read of or considered deeply before...In the years since 2000 when the Breadwinner trilogy began, Deborah Ellis has done steady, serious, and compelling writing for children in the West who need to know about those children in the East who have never known a year of peace in their war-ravaged lives…It is a powerful cap-stone to a memorable and important body of work.” —Judy Brown, Canadian Literature
Survival, refugee life
Peshawar Refugee camp (Afghanistan-Pakistan border)
Since my involvement with Afghanistan, which began when news of the crimes of the Taliban hit the Toronto newspapers back in 1996, I have been trying to understand what war does to people. What the decisions made by people living in safety do to the daily lives of people whose opinions about the matter are not heard.
I’ve seen the way bombs and bullets shatter human bodies and devastate families. I’ve learned what happens when the destruction of infrastructure leads to bad water, food shortages and the lack of medical care. And I’ve heard from refugees about how their lives have been derailed and reduced to Waiting — for food, for shelter, for documents, for peace.
Through all the tales of crime and chaos, there has been one consistent champion — the educators. Teachers, whether professionally trained or picking it up as they go along, who carve out little niches of safety and childhood for the kids in need. Librarians who remind us that human beings are capable of creating things noble and sublime (is there anything more beautiful than a line of books on a shelf?). And others who, through music, art, sport or community building, lift us all up.
Books can help us remember what we have in common as humans.
And that’s what I try to do with mine.
READ more about Deborah Ellis’ work in Afghanistan and her books at her website
Leave a comment and let us know how you use this title!