Under the Persimmon Tree
By Suzanne Fisher Staples
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Hardcover, 9780374380250, 288pp.)
Publication Date: July 14, 2005
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Intertwined portraits of courage and hope in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Najmah, a young Afghan girl whose name means “star,” suddenly finds herself alone when her father and older brother are conscripted by the Taliban and her mother and newborn brother are killed in an air raid. An American woman, Elaine, whose Islamic name is Nusrat, is also on her own. She waits out the war in Peshawar, Pakistan, teaching refugee children under the persimmon tree in her garden while her Afghan doctor husband runs a clinic in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.
Najmah’s father had always assured her that the stars would take care of her, just as Nusrat’s husband had promised that they would tell Nusrat where he was and that he was safe. As the two look to the skies for answers, their fates entwine. Najmah, seeking refuge and hoping to find her father and brother, begins the perilous journey through the mountains to cross the border into Pakistan. And Nusrat’s persimmon-tree school awaits Najmah’s arrival. Together, they both seek their way home.
Known for her award-winning fiction set in South Asia, Suzanne Fisher Staples revisits that part of the world in this beautifully written, heartrending novel.
Under the Persimmon Tree is a 2006 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
Suzanne Fisher Staples, a former UPI correspondent, is the author of many acclaimed books for young readers, including Shiva’s Fire, Dangerous Skies, and the Newbery Honor Book Shabanu. She lives in Nicholson, Pennsylvania.
"Staples powerfully and honestly expresses the plight of a civilization caught between terrorists and American bombs." -- Starred, Publishers Weekly
"As with her Newbery Honor Book, Shabanu (1989), its the personal story, not the history, that compels as it takes readers beyond the modern stereotypes of Muslims as fundamentalist fanatics. There's hope in heartbreaking scenes of kindness and courage." -- Starred, Booklist
"Readers...will welcome this fascinating glimpse into a world about which far too little has been written." -- School Library Journal
"Staples brings beautiful, war-torn Afghanistan closer in this affecting, eye-opening novel." -- Kirkus Reviews
"The book manages to make the sometimes distant-seeming conflict immediate and vivid to American readers. A poignant picture of the cost of regional and global turmoil." -- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Staples's prose is spare yet taut with emotion, creating a rich, powerful story that young readers will devour and that all school and classroom libraries should stock." -- VOYA