“Wanting Mor” by Rukhsana Khan

Wanting Mor, is  written by Canadian author, Rukhsana Khan, for children 10-14 years.   Khan again demonstrates her gift as a superb storyteller in her riveting novel about the life of a girl living in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2001, after the American invasion.   Khan’s book  is based on the true story of a girl living in an orphanage.   Told in first person, Khan has beautifully captured the young girl’s voice.   Her opening chapter really tugs at your heart-strings.  She has written a compelling story about resilience.  It provides great insight into Afghani culture, and is an excellent book for classroom discussions.

Jameela awakens to find her sick mother (Mor) dead.   Before dusk, Jameela helps the neighbor women (Khalaa)  prepare her mother’s body for burial.  Jameela only knows hardship in her life.   She has lived in poverty, and  has lost many family members to death through illness and the war.  Jameela has a birth defect, and hides her cleft lip behind her shawl (porani).  Her father (Baba) has a temper, is an alcoholic and a heroin addict.  Before Jameela has time to grieve Mor’s passing, Baba uproots her from her home and moves to the large city of Kabul where he promises life will be better.

Jameela dislikes Kabul and is at odds with this very westernized city and its unfamiliar customs.  Her Baba quickly marries a woman who doesn’t like Jameela, and uses her as a slave.  Jameela tries very hard to please her new stepmother.  But, her hateful stepmother demands that Jameela’s father get rid of her.  Baba takes his daughter to the center of Kabul’s busy  marketplace and abandons her.  After waiting all day for Baba to return, a kind butcher finds her outside of his shop and invites her to his home.  Eventually, he places her in an orphanage.

It is Jameela’s memories of Mor and deep Muslim faith that ground her in her new life at the orphanage.  In a twist of fate, her suffering ends and is replaced with kindness and compassion, friendships, an education, and hope for a new future.  Khan does a lovely job of weaving Jameela’s faith and native language of Pushto into the story.  There is a glossary at the end of the book for Pushto and Arabic words.

Wanting Mor  has been recently nominated for the British Columbia’s Red Cedar Award and Britain’s Muslim Writer’s Award.    It has won the 2009 Middle East Book Award, the USBBY Outstanding International Books List, the IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, and the Society of School Librarians International Honor Award.    

Khan also is the author of the award-winning the Big Red Lollipop, (chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best picture books of the year) the Roses in My Carpets, Silly Chicken, King of the Skies and Ruler of the Courtyard.  Check out Rukhsana Khan’s  website for information about all of her books and school presentations.

On Thursday, Oct. 20, I will do an author interview with Rukhsana Khan.


Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe  Tilton, All Rights Reserved

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

22 thoughts on ““Wanting Mor” by Rukhsana Khan

  1. Oh My! an author interview with Rukshsana, how wonderful. Will look forward to that. As you know I loved her book Wanting Mor and bought it at the SCBWI Conference we were at in LA this year. I thoroughly enjoyed her workshop and have viewed her website a number of times. (Thanks also for mentioning me to her, unfortunately my website you posted to her was not working at the time.)
    This is a lovely review of the book, Pat. This is the kind of book I love to read, so moving and intense. Thankyou Pat.


    • I love to see book’s like Rukhsana’s published. It is so important to tell these stories and have young people read them. She does a lot of school visits, so I hope that her book is in their hands. Such a heartbreaking novel, but one that has a glimmer of hope. Yes, I am excited with my interview with Rukhsana. She is such a nice and down to earth individual. I’m sorry that your website was down. Contact her directlly.


  2. Wow, that book sounds incredible — moving and gripping and “real”. I was so impressed with Rukhsana at SCBWI. I am doubly impressed that you will be interviewing her. Looking forward to that interview!


    • Beth, I read this book in one sitting — couldn’t put it down! I’m sure you’d like her story and writing style. She really knows how to tell a good story very well. The first chapter is simply heartbreaking. But, you also see a girl who is so simple and true to herself, that she survives and thrives. Some interesting twists in the story. Yes, I loved her Golden Kite acceptance speech as we got a glimpse of talented storyteller. Thanks for stopping by! – Pat


  3. I would love to get hold of a copy of this book. Rukshana is a gifted storyteller and story-writer. I am interested to discover how Afghani culture differs from nearby paikistani or the Muslim populations of NW India. Looking forward to the interview.


    • Yes, I agree with you, she is a gifted writer and storyteller. Perhaps you can recommend it to the librarian at your International School. It is a YA novel that shows incredible resilience of such a young spirit. No matter what she encounters, she remains anchored. I was surprised at how the culture in Kandahar was more traditional, where as in Kabul it was more westernized. Women didn’t wear traditional clothing, wore make-up and didn’t wear the traditional shawls as frequently. Glad you enjoyed the review.


    • Thank you Ruth. It is a powerful story and I highly recomment it. My interview with Rukhsana went very well. She is a master storyteller. I heard and met her in August at the SCBWI conference. I also reviewed her book the Big Red Lollipop, which is a great book about sibling rivalry and different cultures — again another true story. Thank’s for stopping. — Patricia


  4. WOW! This sounds like a wonderful book. What a powerful story to tell. I think this would be an interesting perspective for an American to read. I am very glad you shared this. I think it is one that needs to be in my collection and in my heart.


    • Abby, you would like this book. I read it in one sitting as I couldn’t put it down. Rukhsana can tell a great story. I’m excited about my interview with her, and I don’t want to give anything away. But, her goal is to humanize Muslims and show that we’re not all so different. Your kids would love her Big Red Lollipo book, which was selected among the top 10 picture books by the NYT. I reviewed it recently. It is so funny! Thanks for stopping. — Patricia


    • Thanks for checking out my blog Jennie. My blog is a little different, as I review books for children with special needs, as well as multicultural, multi-ethnic, nature, diversity and so on. Wanting Mor is one of the best books I’ve read. I like that it is based on a true story. Am excited about my interview with Rukhsana on Thursday. She is to kind and accessible. I just love her. If you have young children, you might want to read my review of her book Big Red Lollipop, as it is a funny story about sibling rivalry — it is based on Rukhsana’s childhood.


    • Jennie — it was late when I responded to your commen last night. I meant to tell you again how much I enjoyed your interview with Abby yesterday. Very fun and spontaneous approach. Will look forward to your other interviews. Nice way to get to know others. — Patricia


  5. Thank you for this good review of “Wanting Mor”. I am attending an SCBWI this Saturday and will pick up a copy as it sounds like a book I definitely want to read. I love hearing about children in other cultures. This seems like the flavor of “Three cups of Tea” or the Yemesh ten year old divorcee memoir.
    I agree that we need a more human view of muslims and middle easterners in general. Through and for children is a good start. Also for children whos values are just being formed.

    I am looking eagerly forward to your interview. I will be back on the 20th.


    • You will really enjoy reading Wanting Mor, especially if you liked Three Cups of Tea and I am Nujood. And, I think you’ll like my interview with Rukhsana — such a lovely person. These are important stories to tell. We have similar reading interests. Funny, I volunteer to work on some of the exhibits at the Dayton International Peace Museum. Last year three of us researched, wrote and designed a fabulous exhibit of Greg Mortenson’s work to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was on display for three months at the Peace Museum, but is being dsiplayed now at colleges. Greg saw the exhibit and we got to spend an hour with him — absolutely fascinating. CAI ran a blog item and our photos in this month newsletter with some of the panels behind us. My moment of fame 🙂 LOL!


      • You can be proud of yourself but not Greg M. He is spending all the money on his own book tour and has lied about his climb up to the villages. There are other discrepencies in “Three cups of Tea” and I was sorry to hear how he had lied to build the schools. And his fraud is uncovered by sixty minutes and he wouldn’t talk to them. So disappointing. What do you tell the kids about his children’s book?


    • Rukhsana,
      I have received a lot of good feedback on your book. And, a lot of followers are looking forward to reading the interview tomorrow. I’m both nervous and excited. I hope you like it!


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