IN THE HILLS ABOVE KABUL
Sadeed knew he wasn’t supposed to be listening to the men talking in the next room. He also knew he wasn’t supposed to be peeking through the crack near the bottom of the old wooden door. But they had to be talking about him in there—why else would his teacher have invited him to the home of the headman of the village?
His teacher, Mahmood Jafari, had not told him much. “Please come to Akbar Khan’s house this afternoon at four. He and his councillors meet today, and I have to speak with them. And I may need you to be there.”
Sadeed thought perhaps his teacher was going to recommend him for a special honor. That wasn’t hard to imagine, not at all. Perhaps the village elders would award him a scholarship to one of the finest new schools in Kabul. He would wear blue trousers and a clean white shirt to classes every day, and he would have his own computer, and he would take his place as one of the future leaders of Afghanistan. His father and mother would be very proud of him. It would be a great opportunity. And Sadeed was certain he richly deserved it.
Through the crack in the door, Sadeed could see all seven men, sitting on cushions around a low table, sipping tea. An electric bulb hung overhead, and two wires ran across the ceiling to the gasoline generator outside. Mahmood was talking to Akbar Khan, but the teacher’s back was toward the door, and Sadeed couldn’t hear what he was saying.
When the teacher finished, someone Sadeed knew—Hassan Jaji—began to speak. Hassan stopped by his father’s shop in the village bazaar at least once a week, and he sometimes stayed awhile, telling stories about his time as a freedom fighter during the war with the Soviet Union. One day he had shown Sadeed where a Russian grenade had blown two fingers off his right hand.
As letters flow back and forth—between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of central Asia, across cultural and religious divides, through the minefields of different lifestyles and traditions—a small group of children begin to speak and listen to each other. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.
- Atheneum Books for Young Readers |
- 224 pages |
- ISBN 9781416949312 |
- February 2011 |
- Grades 3 - 7 |
- Lexile ® 830L
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Reading Group Guide
by Andrew Clements
About the Book
It isn't that Abby Carson can't do her schoolwork; it's just that she doesn't like doing it. And that means she's pretty much failing sixth grade. When a warning letter is sent home, Abby realizes that all her slacking off could cause her to be held back—for real! Unless she wants to repeat the sixth grade, she'll have to meet some specific conditions, including taking on an extra-credit project: find a pen pal in a foreign country. Abby's first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, and Sadeed Bayat is chosen to be her pen pal . . . Well, kind of. He is the best writer, but he is also a boy, and in his village it is not appropriate for a boy to correspond with a girl. So his younger sister dictates and signs the letter. Until Sadeed decides what his sister is telling Abby isn't what he'd like Abby to know . . .
• Author Andrew Clements chose the state of Illinois in the United States and Afghanistan as the settings in Extra Credit. Why do you think Clements selected these locations? What kinds of differences between the two countries—cultural and otherwise—can you identify after reading the book?
• On the first page of Extra Credit, Afghani student Sadeed thinks that his teacher is going to “recommend him for a special honor,” but when he finds out that his teach see more