The Library Bus Reviews

School Library Journal ★ Starred Review

Cover: The Library Bus Author: Bahram Rahman Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard Publisher: Pajama Press

“Villages and refugee camps in Kabul are visited by the area’s only library bus in this picture book that celebrates the continued fight of Afghani women for education….An author’s note follows, explaining refugee camps, growing up under the Taliban, and the author’s personal admiration of female teachers in their pursuit of an education. The conversational text is great for one-on-one sharing, but this will also come in handy at story times, for a celebration of reading, and for a glimpse of Afghani culture.”

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The New York Times

“In a story inspired by the first library bus in Kabul, Afghanistan, where Rahman grew up during the civil war, it brings books to girls in remote villages and refugee camps who have no other access to education. When it arrives, their cheeks blush with hope, like Pari’s magenta dress against Grimard’s richly nuanced saffron sand and sky.”

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“Illustrations in warm-hued watercolors depict the buildings in the old city nestled in the mountains ‘like the embroidered scarfs in the Grand Bazaar,’ which contrasts with the dusty tents of the camp. The girls’ individualized faces and emotions will establish a bond with children everywhere as Rahman celebrates the brave and resourceful Afghani women teachers from his childhood who found creative ways to educate girls.”
—Lolly Gepson

Read the full review in the October 1, 2020 issue of Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

“Grimard’s illustrations pair well with Rahman’s words, from the sun rising over the mountains in the morning against an atmospheric sky to the dusty camp area with tents labeled UNHCR. Pari, her mom, and many girls cover their hair. In the backmatter, the author, an Afghan refugee himself now living in Canada, offers a personal message, which is accompanied by a brief note about refugee camps.

An inspiring story that conveys the power of education—paying it forward and meeting avid readers where they are.”

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The Horn Book Guide, “Book Bundles: Finding Hope”

“Rahman, who grew up in wartime Afghanistan, states that ‘all of the characters [in this fictional story] are inspired by the children that I met during my visits to refugee camps and orphanages in Kabul.’ The reassuring watercolor and digital illustrations help convey Rahman’s assertion that ‘when you are born in war, you are truly unaware of the alternative, peace. War is your normal.’”
—Kitty Flynn

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Shelf Awareness

“Bahram Rahman, who worked as a gender equality activist in Afghanistan, delicately portrays in his first picture book the continued effects of the Taliban’s prohibition on female education. Yet it is with profound hope and drive that Rahman depicts his characters…With her watercolor illustrations, Gabrielle Grimard (Stolen Words illustrator) evokes natural movement, suggests soft textures and depicts the beauty of dusty landscapes dotted with brightly painted buildings. Closed with an author’s note sharing his connection to the story, The Library Bus extols the soaring spirit of those who value learning.”
—Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

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Quill & Quire

“The majority of Canadian children – though shamefully not all – can take for granted the availability of books at home or in schools and local libraries. Two new picture books, both told from the perspective of children, are set in war-ravaged countries where access to books is anything but a given….The Library Bus introduces readers to the brave women in contemporary Afghanistan who run mobile schools and libraries to teach young girls and provide them with reading and writing materials….

Bahram Rahman’s The Library Bus is inspired by growing up in Afghanistan and by the children he met during visits to orphanages and camps in Kabul….

The dangers and obstacles that still exist for girls getting an education in Afghanistan are not emphasized; Rahman instead refers back to the education of Pari’s mother by her father, which had to be conducted in utter secrecy. In the afterword, the author mentions the inspiration he drew from the real-life children he met. Gabrielle Grimard’s characteristically warm style and her animated representation of Pari and the other children beautifully brings to life the vitality and potential of the girls in the book.”

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Asian Review of Books

“Although 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….

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.

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The International Examiner

“Bahram Rahman’s The Library Bus is set in Afghanistan and tells the story of a little girl, Pari, and her mother who take a library bus filled with notebook, pencils, and books to villages and refugee camps so young girls can become literate….The story is simple and heartwarming and underscores the importance of literacy and schooling for girls and gently points to the political challenges—repressive regimes, poverty, refugee camps—that preclude education for young girls….

[A] beautifully illustrated heartwarming narrative that will appeal to young children, especially at bed-time….welcome additions to any child’s library.”

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Montreal Review of Books

The Library Bus reminds us what a luxury it is to learn to read. Set in Kabul, Bahram Rahman’s first picture book takes us on a journey – a library bus journey – to Afghanistan, bringing books and teaching English to children in the small villages and refugee camps where there are no schools for girls….Award-winning illustrator Gabrielle Grimard brings this story to life with water-colour paintings of the refugee camps, villages, and the little children who live there.”

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Midwest Book Review

“Drawing upon very real conditions confronting Afghanistan girls wanting an education, The Library Bus by the collaborative team of author/storyteller Bahram Rahman and artist/illustrator Gabrielle Grimard is an extraordinary, original, thoroughly ‘kid friendly’, and highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-8.”

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CM Magazine

“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….

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….The Library Bus is a gentle day-in-the-life book that introduces readers to a beautiful country. Highly Recommended.”
Sadie Tucker is a children’s librarian at the Vancouver Public Library.

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Winnipeg Free Press

“Inspired by the first Library Bus to operate in Kabul, Bahram Rahman, who was born in Afghanistan and is now a senior policy advisor for the Ministry of Health in Ontario, has written The Library Bus to show how important it is for girls to be allowed to go to school….Gabrielle Grimard’s pictures wrap around whole pages with watercolour and digital abandon.”

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“This nicely illustrated picture book looks at the importance of education for everyone. At the end of the book the author writes about what it was like growing up in Afghanistan. There is also ‘A Note About Refugee Camps.’”

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The International Educator

The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman is a picture book, a gently told story of Pari and her mother who operates a library bus in Afghanistan….A great read to discuss the plight of refugees with young children.”

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Canadian Bookworm

“This picture book was written by a Canadian who immigrated here from Afghanistan and was inspired to document the struggle for education faced by not only the women in his family, but for thousands of others….The illustrations were lovely, with the girls seen as individuals and the eagerness clearly portrayed. I loved the colours used here as well. And, of course, how could I not love a book about libraries and their importance.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Hopeful stories impact each of us in these troubled times….Warm and inviting artwork, done in watercolor and digital media, allows readers a chance to appreciate both setting and characters. The author’s note adds context for the telling, and an information box explains the need for camps to house refugees.”

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Kids Read the World

“This book packs so much into its 32 pages. It is fiction written in a way that opens up so many doors for discussion about Afghan culture. The city of Kabul is mentioned, a small village is shown, the language of Farsi is included in a few places, female dress is shown and discussed, there is mention of the Grand Bazaar, and the mother and daughter travel to a refugee camp. My 4 year old stopped me on every page to ask questions, which is awesome. This book was so accessible for both my kids and gave them such a rich introduction to the country of Afghanistan.

This book includes a note from the author in back matter explaining why he felt it was important to write this book. There is also information about refugee camps and organizations who work to help those displaced by war or natural disasters.”

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“A bookmobile in Afghanistan!
I felt a connection right away to the excitement of having access to books through a bookmobile. The small town I grew up in did not have a library. There was one in the next town over, but we rarely visited, so I looked forward to bookmobile day in the neighborhood. It meant I could check out another Babysitters Club Book. Hahaha.
The bookmobile (Library Bus) in this story had a far deeper meaning for those it visited. 📚
It meant access to education. For in addition to bringing books, Pari and her mom taught English and reading classes.”

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Little Bookworm Club

“Education and literacy is so accessible to us here in the US that we sometimes forget this is not the case everywhere.(including in parts of the US) The author @bahram_rahman grew up in Afghanistan during the strict regime of the Taliban, a time when women, including his own sister were forbidden to learn, read, or write.

The Story follows Pari and her mother. It’s Pari’s first time helping her mom on her library bus, the only library bus in Kabul. Her mother travels to villages and refugee camps where there’s no access to school, teaching young girls to read, write, speak English, and count. She is their only means of education, once a week.

Pari’s mother learned these things from her grandpa long before girls were allowed to go to school, to learn to read or write. Her mother encourages her to never stop learning. Because learning = freedom.

This is such a poignant and touching story and truth. It celebrates literacy, resourcefulness, and women striving for a better future while shedding light on past generations struggles and injustice. The illustrations are absolutely stunning with rich earth tones depicting this heroic mother/daughter duo and their journey to sharing love and education.”

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Storytime with Stephanie

“The Library Bus is a beautiful book to show children about what it’s like to grow up without access to education. When we exist in our own little bubbles we can forget there is a huge world out there and many different people with vastly different experiences. It’s incredible to have a story to share with children that not only show what life is life for women in Afghanistan but also shows their strength and determination. I love how Bahrain Rahman frames the story and shares joy with readers. It’s not a story that will leave readers feeling sad for the women and girls in Afghanistan but leaves them grateful for the privileges they have living in Canada. The girls who learn from Pari’s mama are grateful and happy to learn and the story is very joyful.

Gabrielle Grimard’s illustrations contribute to the joyful feeling in the story. Readers will see all of the smiling faces and the beautiful landscapes depicted. The illustrations envelop the pages with beautiful colours and so many books. It’s a book that will instantly draw your eyes.”

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Mr. Alex’s Bookshelf

“Bahram Rahman tells the story of a woman and her daughter who travel around Afghanistan on a bus filled with books, not seats, to teach young girls English…This book would be a great book to use in classrooms to give students a different perspective of school. It can help children recognize that going to school is a privilege and something that we should not take for granted.”

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The Colorful Muse

“A truly poignant story set in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mama drives the only library bus in the city. Pari is nervous about her first day as Mama’s little library helper. The bus starts off its journey as the sun is rising, making stops at villages and refugee camps, welcoming little girls returning their books, requesting writing supplies, and learning to write….

When war is all you know, that is your normal. Lack of access to education did not stop women like Pari’s mama to help the girls. Lack of basic needs did not damper these girls’ hopes and dreams.

Such an amazing story of hope and resilience and the power of everyday female heroines.”

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“When you are born in war, you are truly unaware of the alternative, peace.” As I mulled over this for a while, I thought about how privileged I am. Trying to understand what people go through, about those who suffered and are suffering the aftermath of wars. We were carried gracefully into the World of Pari and the World she lives in. Let’s talk about love, peace —introduce kids to the plights of war refugees and the power of education.

It’s Pari’s first day helping her mother out at the library bus, the only one in all of Kabul. In the dawn, they leave their Home to the 1st stop, a small village. When they reached, girls await the bus, eager to return books and pick up new ones. Pari’s mother sits down in the circle and reads books to the children. Next, the bus heads to a refugee camp beyond the mountains. Rows and rows of dusty tents, kids with patches on their clothes climb aboard the bus. They recite the A B C’s and listen to stories. On the way, Mama tells Pari about how she learned to read – hiding in the basement flipping through pages because girls were not allowed to attend school when she was young. Mama tells Pari to study hard. Pari recites the letters she learned that day on the way back home. Mama tells Pari she will be going to school soon and never stop learning because learning makes you Free.”

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“This is such a sweet book! The main character, Pari, travels with her mother in their mobile library to deliver books to children…They go to villages and refugee camps throughout Afghanistan…The Library Bus is uplifting. It shows joy in times of struggle.

The author grew up in Afghanistan and brings stories and elements from his experiences into the writing. He emphasizes the strength and determination of Afghan girls to pursue education. As the girl’s mother says, education will make you free! That concept is weaved throughout the book. We see true happiness in the girls’ faces when they are given the opportunity to earn. Finally, I can’t forget to mention the absolutely gorgeous illustrations.”

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