“The Library Bus” by Bahram Rahman

The Library Bus, Bahram Rahman, Gabrielle Grimard (illus) (Pajama Press, November 2020) The Library Bus, Bahram Rahman, Gabrielle Grimard (illus) (Pajama Press, November 2020)

A young girl follows her mother to work for the first time, climbing aboard a library bus in Kabul, Afghanistan to help on weekly visits to small villages and refugee camps. A group of young girls wait patiently for the bus to come. The door opens and the girls search for new books to borrow before sitting down for a lesson with the little girl’s mother.

Bahram Rahman wrote his debut picture book, The Library Bus,

 

to document the struggle for education experienced by the women in his own family and to draw attention to the barriers that still exist for millions of children, especially for girls, living in war torn countries today.

 

Born in Kabul, Rahman attended medical school before obtaining a master’s degree at the University of Erfurt, Germany, while also working as an activist in his native Afghanistan. In 2012, he came to Canada as a refugee.

thelibrarybus_lookinside11Although the book deals with heavy and complex themes, there is still a lightness to the story that attracts and engages young readers. While the circumstances around the library bus in the villages and refugee camps are sobering, Pari’s enthusiasm for a library bus is joyous.

 

But this is no ordinary library—this one is on wheels! And it’s the only library bus in all of Kabul. Instead of seats, it has so many books that Pari can barely count them all.

 

As is Pari’s enthusiasm for learning. As she helps her mother on the bus, she waits for her own opportunity to go to school. Her mother impresses the importance of an education:

 

“Tell me know,” she [the mother] adds with a wink, “how does learning make you feel?”
      “Free!” Pari screams, raising her arms in the air.

 

Rahman provides a number of opportunities for young audiences to engage with the story:  an author’s note that follows the story gives some insight into Rahman’s childhood, while another note provides an introduction to refugee camps.

The illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard are equally appealing and capture Rahman’s tone and the power of books and education, while celebrating the bond between mother and daughter.


Melanie Ho is the author of Journey to the West: He Hui, a Chinese Soprano in the World of Italian Opera.