Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson

Allen & Unwin, 2009  9781741753349  $9.99

Mahtab, an Afghani girl, flees with her family one night to escape the Taliban. Their goal is to reach Australia. They are hidden under a load of furniture and other items in the back of an old pick-up truck. Their father has devised an innocuous noise to warn them to be perfectly still and quiet if they are stopped at a checkpoint.

After a long, uncomfortable journey, they finally arrive in Pakistan, where they will wait until the next stage of their voyage can be arranged. Weeks go by with no action, and finally, Mahtab’s father decides to set out ahead of them and send for them once he has reached Australia. After eight months of waiting, they must flee again when rumors of the Taliban in the area arise.

Their next stop is to Malaysia, by plane, an experience new, and frightening to all of them. In Malaysia, they are housed in a nice hotel until a boat can be arranged to take them on the final leg of the journey. Unfortunately, the ship is less than sea-worthy, and begins to take on water. And when they draw near to Australia, a large ship approaches and orders them back. Their small ship turns away, and the captain makes plans to land elsewhere once it is dark.

Upon setting foot on land, Mahtab rejoices that they’ve made it and that they’re free, only to discover that they are to be interred in a prison-like refugee camp until each of their cases can be dealt with. Up until this time, Mahtab has been her mother’s right hand, cheerful, and keeping the younger children entertained. But now she loses heart as the months pass by waiting for the officials to find their father.

Inspired by a true story, this well-written book offers readers insight into the plight of refugees.


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