It's Afghani schoolgirl Aria's first day back at school since her accident. She's excited, but she's also worried about sitting on the hard floor all day with her new prosthetic "helper-leg."
Just as Aria feared, sitting on the floor is so uncomfortable that she can't think about learning at all. She knows that before the war changed many things in Afghanistan, schools like hers had benches for students to sit at. If she had a bench, her leg would not hurt so much. The answer is obvious: she will gather materials, talk to Kaka Najar, the carpenter in the old city, and learn to build a bench for herself.
In A Sky-Blue Bench, Bahram Rahman, author of The Library Bus, returns again to the setting of his homeland, Afghanistan, to reveal the resilience and resolve of young children—especially young girls—who face barriers to education. Illustrator Peggy Collins imbues Aria with an infectious spunkiness and grit that make her relatable even to readers with a very different school experience. An author's note gently introduces an age-appropriate discussion of landmines and their impact on the lives of children in many nations, especially Afghanistan, which has the highest concentration of landmines of any country in the world.
Bahram Rahman was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and grew up during the civil war and the Taliban regime. He earned a medical degree at Kabul Medical University and a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Erfurt, Germany, while also working as an activist in Afghanistan in the areas of gender equality and youth political participation. Bahram came to Canada as a refugee in 2012, and today he is a senior policy advisor at the Ministry of Health in Ontario. His first picture book, Governor General’s Literary Award finalist The Library Bus, was praised by the New York Times for documenting the barriers to education experienced by girls in war-torn countries and their resilience and ingenuity in overcoming them.
Wow! This was a powerful book. A Sky Blue focuses on a young Afghan girl, Aria, as she attempts to go back to school after receiving a prosthetic leg due to mine explosion. When Aria gets to school she's extremely uncomfortable finding a way to sit during class because of her "helper leg." Not only does the author address the danger that Afghan children face due to mines left all over the country, but they also weave discussions about the barriers that young Afghan girls and women face in relation to their education. Aria knows that unless she is able to build a bench to help her feel more comfortable in class she won't have access to the tools she needs to learn how to read and write. The narrative was powerful and impactful and drew specifically on some experiences the author had growing up in Afghanistan. There is an authors note with terms that I think will be helpful to parents/caregivers if they read this will children. The artwork was extremely beautiful with a slight emphasis on blue on some pages because of the meaning of the color. The palette was bright and truly illustrated and showed the beauty of Afghanistan.
This book just clutched at my heart and I felt invested in Aria’s story and so warmed by the resolution!
Genre: Adv. Picture book Ages: 6-9
Aria is just returning to class after her accident, which left her with a prosthetic leg. She has trouble in school because there are no desks or seats, since the war had caused everyone to use the benches for fuel/warmth. Aria struggles but nothing works. So Aria comes up with an idea, while looking at the tree outside her window. She decides to build a bench. Once her bench is done she paints it a beautiful blue color, the color of piece and wisdom. And everyone wants to build their own benches too at school, inspired by her own creativity.
This story was so sweet. Set an Afghanistan, it shows beautiful snippets into the life there and the struggles of rebuilding after war. Based partially on the experiences of the author, it inspires hope in the reader that children can come up with solutions, even adults might not see any.
I loved how blue was described as the color of wisdom and peas and it truly warms the reader to see Aria be empowered to make her own change.
I love how it is about the importance of learning even in the face of hardship, and I loved how it emphasizes independence for those who might have a disability.
A beautiful book and one that is definitely empowering and inspiring!
Sweet story based on the author's experience in Afghanistan. It is an excellent resource for teaching persistence, with a global perspective and research opportunity. The idea that children are maimed by landmines may be hard to consider sharing with children, but it is happening to children all over the world. The book shares this truth and resources to deal with it: HALO and UNMAS. Pajama Press provides an extensive teaching guide: https://pajamapress.ca/resource/a_sky...
This fiction book would make a great read aloud as it is a Schneider Family Book Award winner! This book contains intriguing end sheets that have illustrations of the beautiful sky. Read this book to find out more about the protagonist, Aria!
I read this book after reading a peers review on Goodreads. Aria is a little girl in Afghanistan who lost her leg in a horrible accident. She attends school again, with her prosthetic leg, but quickly realizes there is no comfortable way for her to sit in class with this leg. She decides she needs a bench, and she is going to make it. Some people look down on her and think she cannot make a bench, since she is a woman. She is determined to prove them wrong, and sets out to find wood and scraps she can use to make the bench. The carpenter gives Aria sky-blue paint for her bench which represents peace, wisdom and courage. Aria proves to be a great carpenter herself and makes an awesome bench.
I accessed this book digitally, as a read aloud on Youtube, and was not disappointed by the Schneider Family Award winning book. I'd imagine this would be a great book to read in an early elementary, K-2 grade, classroom. Perhaps if a student truly has a prosthetic and you're looking to increase inclusion, or just as a fun read about being able to accomplish anything.
Aria is finally returning to school after an accident (she is Afghan and was injured by a land mine) She has a "helper-leg" now. There are no desks or chairs in her school - everything wood was burned during the war. Aria is worried about sitting on the floor. She tries lots of things, leaning against the wall, standing - it's hard to get and down. Discouraged from her day, her mother reminds her that she's tough and can figure out what to do. She decides to build a bench for herself - with the help of friends, she gathers wood and nails , they visit a carpenter who loans her some tools, and she builds a beautiful bench. Not the end of the story!
Based on childhood memories of the author, who grew up in Kabul. A hopeful story of resilience and healing. The illustrations are colorful and cute. Be sure to read the author's note, which reveals a backstory of the dangers the children in Afghanistan face every day.
I love books where kids take charge! Aria has a new prosthetic limb and is navigating her world with it. As she arrives at school, she notices that the only place for her to sit, is on the floor. She can't get comfortable and is so sore. Plus, she can't even get up or down by herself. So, she solves her problem-she builds herself a bench. The community all rallies around her, the girls at the school help, and the bench is made. I loved the message of perseverance and hope. Thank you Pajama Press!
I know many of you are thinking, another book about school for girls in Afghanistan, and given the reception by most to the author's first book, The Library Bus, I can sense the rolling eyes. I was in the minority on that one, as I enjoyed it, but, this one is simpler, sweeter, more universal while being complimented by culture, and I hope it is a more authentic and accurate OWN voice portrayal. I know I have a lot to learn about white washing narratives and breaking down colonial paradigms, so I promise if you disagree I will listen. But I genuinely enjoyed the illustrations and little Aria finding a way to make a bench so she could sit comfortably at school with her prosthetic leg. The girls go to school, and the furniture was burned to keep warm in the winter, a concept that the author verifies at the end as something experienced in his own life. Aria has to find a way to sit in class because she wants to learn, and lack of wood working experience, resources, and doubt that a girl can do it from her classmates, isn't going to stop her. Over 32 pages, early elementary age children will meet a determined young girl as she pieces together scraps to build a bench.
Aria has been in the hospital for a while after an accident took her leg. She is excited to be back at school, but quickly realizes it is hard to sit on the floor with her new helper leg. She tries leaning on the wall, standing even, but just getting up and down off the floor is really difficult. At home when she mentions it to her mom, her mom reassures her that she can get through it and her little brother offers to help her carry her things.
That night Aria considers how much she would miss school if she isn't able to figure something out. Then she has an idea, she'll build a bench. At school the next morning, classmates tell her "Girls don't build benches," but Aria responds, "I can do anything a boy can."
With that, a single friend joins Aria as they comb the city for discarded wood, broken furniture, screws, and nails. They assemble the resources and when they have enough Aria and her mom head across town, past the Blue Mosque, to visit the carpenter, Kaka Najar. He shows them how to fit the pieces together like a puzzle and loans them the tools needed to be successful. He even gifts her some sky-blue paint, "the color of courage, peace, and wisdom."
That weekend Aria and her mom and little brother build a bench, paint it blue, and get it to school. When the other students see it, their excitement bubbles and they imagine building tables, book cases, and more. Anything is possible after all, there is paint left in the can and they are willing to work together.
There is nothing religious in the text, save the mention of walking past a mosque, but in the illustrations the women are all covering their heads when they are out, and are uncovered at home, the school uniform seems to be a white hijab and black abaya. I wish there were some Pashto words sprinkled, and it was a bit off that she was building a bench, but the finished project was a bench and table. The end has an Author's Note and I enjoy seeing the smiling faces and bright illustrations in a book set in Afghanistan.
A Sky-Blue Bench is a 2022 ALA Schneider Family Book Award Honor Winner that I located using our class Wakelet for inclusion and dis/ability literature. I read this in book format at my local public library.
This story takes place in Afghanistan. Aria is a young girl who is returning to school after an accident. She is excited, but she is distressed about the physical and emotional pain she will feel with her new prosthetic leg. When she enters the school building, her classmates stare at her while she tries to get comfortable on the floor with her “helper leg.” Aria runs home at the end of the day and tells her mom that she doesn’t want to go to school anymore because of the barrier she is facing. Then, she remembers that in Afghanistan, people used to make benches and desks with wood. So, she has an idea and seeks help from a carpenter to gather materials from town to make her own seat. Ari is a courageous and wise girl!
The illustrations are created using the artistic media of painting. Pages have bright colors and contain hints of blue. In the book, the color blue symbolizes “courage, peace, and wisdom.” The book style is realism because the artist depicts cultural and historical details, such as the classroom and city.
This book provides an ethnic and cultural diversity to any library that can serve as a mirror, or in some cases a window for the young students in kindergarten to second grade. The author is also diverse and Afghan. In the classroom, I would use this book to talk about prosthetic legs and use a chart such as KWL. I would ask students what they know about “helper legs” and then I would ask them what questions they have. Students would be encouraged to continue asking questions while listening to the book and looking at pictures. The class could talk about others who have disabilities and discuss strengths and ways to be accepting of all individuals. I think it would also be powerful to have students build something to make a change- since this is what the main character did in the book. Students could research a disability or an everyday problem and work in groups to build something to serve a purpose. There is a reading guide for this book that has a lot of great classroom connection activities!
"[Afghanistan] has one of the world's largest populations per capita of people with disabilities," states The European Parliament (November 2020).
Likewise, in its May 2020 study, The Asia Foundation noted that 80% of adults and 17.3% of children live with mild, moderate, or severe forms of disability.
This alarming phenomenon is due to natural occurrences like birth defects/genetics, old age, accidents, or inflicted intentionally via corporal punishments like maiming or amputations, leftover landmines, IEDs, unexploded ordnance, etc.
Local author Bahram Rahman addresses this issue in his children's book titled "A Sky-Blue Bench."
Through the main character, Aria, Mr. Rahman gently touches on the genuine threat Afghan children face regarding loss or injury to their persons.
Aria's story begins after recovering from a non-specific accident and picks up with her resuming life with a "helper leg," which might be due to "the war" that is briefly mentioned and glossed over at the beginning of the book.
SIDE NOTE: I LOVE how Mr. Rahman weaves his support for female education and women's rights throughout the story without overshadowing the primary narrative, as highlighted when one of Aria's classmates tells her, "Girls don't build benches," and Aria confidently responds, "I can do anything that a boy can."
All in all, "A Sky-Blue Bench" is a great way to expose young children to other cultures and important topics like disability, gender equality, and war without scaring or overwhelming them.
Other subjects worth discussing, like problem-solving, resiliency, overcoming obstacles, hard work, togetherness, etc., are within the text too.
In light of current world events, "A Sky-Blue Bench" would be the perfect story to use to foster feelings of "courage, peace, and wisdom" as intended by the sky-blue colored paint gifted to Aria to decorate her bench.
Courage, peace, and wisdom are gifts that can benefit everyone.
Wow -- what a stunning and memorable inspiration of a book! I read this with my 8 and 7 year old and they loved it. It's certainly one we will read again. The narrative is rich and engaging. The main character, Aria, is thoughtful, resilient, innovative and just an overall inspiration for children. I love that we get to be a part of her story. Children will resonate with some of Aria's experiences but mostly it will be an outside-looking-in window-view of someone else's experience. Aria has a helper-leg and lives in Afghanistan as well as attends school where there are no benches to sit on. The narrative beautifully brings us in to Aria's experience. Children will celebrate the end of the story with Aria and her classmates and feel that anyone can make a difference. I appreciate also that Aria is never alone in this story -- she has beautiful relationships and help through family, friends and neighbors along with way. This story is a wonderful ode to the resilience of Afghan children and provides hope for a better future.
***Note: I was given a review copy of this book via Publisher's Spotlight. Opinions are my own.
A Sky-Blue Bench is an inspiring story about a young girl who has decided to make a change herself. Aria is starting school again with the assistance of her new helper-leg, which she got after an accident. Due to the war, schools do not have benches for the students to sit at, meaning they have to sit on the floor. However, it is painful for Aria to sit on the floor with her helper leg, so she decides to find a solution for herself. She seeks out advise from the town carpenter in hopes of building herself a bench. She then paints the bench a beautiful sky blue which represents peace and wisdom. Aria proves to herself and her classmates that change can be made by women and children. This is a great book that features a disability that causes an issue that people may not have realized could be an issue. Seeing children with disabilities being represented in children’s books is inspiring and can be less isolating for children who experience these ailments in their own lives. The inclusion of Aria’s disability is inspiring enough, but to have her as a young woman solve her own problem in Afghanistan truly makes this book unique and even more heartfelt.
A sweet book that lightly touches upon the education of Afghani girls and the effects of war, but highlights the extra work the disabled must take on in order to take part in activities and services the able take for granted. In this case, Aria, a little girl with a helper leg (due to a landmine), attends a school without tables or chairs (they were used for fire when displaced families sheltered in the school). When she joins her classmates on the floor, she is too uncomfortable to learn. But Aria values her education so she goes about building a bench. She is helped by her community and friends but this book is primarily about self determination and confidence. It also brings attention to the unconscious harm caused by abelist assumptions and how the disabled themselves must create change but it is a subtle focus with a celebratory ending, and is beautifully done. An Author's Note gives more background and facts about displacement and landmine destruction and the ongoing danger they cause, even post-war.
Peggy Collins’ vivid, joyous illustrations of Kabul, Afghanistan provide the setting for Aria to go back to school after her accident. Sitting on the hard ground is painful for Aria and her helper-leg though the other girls laugh when she says she will build a bench. she replies she can do anything a boy can. A friend helps Aria scrounges and gather discarded boards, broken chairs, screws and nails. She gives an old carpenter a loaf of bread and asks his to build a bench. He shares his tools and ideas on how to fit the pieces together like a puzzle, and gifts her with a can of sky-blue paint- the color of courage, peace and wisdom.
Author Bahram Rahman honors and celebrate the resiliency of the Children in war-torn areas, and the barriers to education, especially for girls, and their courage, resourcefulness and ingenuity in their struggles. Well done.
Aria is excited to return to school after a leftover mine caused an accident that took her leg. She has learned to move on her new leg, which she refers to her as her helper leg. The trouble begins when she sees her school has no more furniture and she cannot sit on the floor and get up from the floor because of her injury.
Wow! This book is one that answers questions that I have not asked and fills me with hope and determination from the characters portrayed here. This young girl attends a school with the bare minimum in a class with only girls. She sees a problem, comes up with a plan to solve her problem, gets help as needed, and teaches others. Simply wonderful.
This book should be available in all libraries as it is an interesting way to discuss that we all have different obstacles and can improve our situations with focus, drive, and determination. This book even with it's difficult background of war problems, offers hope and warmth.
I located this book using the Social Justice Books website (socialjusticebooks.org) under books on disabilities. A Sky-Blue Bench was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award from ALA in 2022.
This story is set in a small town in Afghanistan after the war. Aria is a young, school girl who had an accident that resulted in her needing a prosthetic leg. Aria and her classmates are forced to sit on the floor of their school building as all the furniture was burned to keep the city warm during the war. Aria is determined to make her school a more comfortable place by building herself a bench to sit on. The story follows Aria on her journey to creating a beautiful sky-blue bench for her classroom as told from a narrator’s point of view.
I read this book in traditional format from my local public library. The illustrations throughout this story are very detailed especially with character expressions, warm, and colorful reflecting the optimistic tone of the entire story. Aria learns from the local carpenter that sky-blue “is for courage, peace, and wisdom”. The words and pictures work together seamlessly to create a story in which young readers can learn and empathize. What I loved most was that Aria’s prosthetic leg was not a focal point in the images, but rather hinted at by her red shoes and slight display of the leg that allow Aria to blend in with all of her peers throughout out the story.
This book is ideal for early elementary aged students with its bright colorful images and simplistic language and vocabulary. This book is ideal for teaching perseverance, problem solving, and empathy towards those that are different from us. This book would also be a great resource when talking about the war in Afghanistan as it talks about how the furniture was burned to keep the city warm. This could also be used as a compare and contrast between U.S. schools and those in different countries.
Bahram Rahman writes a children's book that reflects the devastation and injury that many young children in Afghanistan face on a daily basis. He has written this story in a way to show the resiliency of Afghan children especially young girls. Aria has lost her leg and is returning to a school that is not easily accessible for her disability. She briefly contemplates not returning, but then comes up with a plan so she can participate in comfort. She is remarkable as she decides to build a bench to sit on and she and her mother consult with the local carpenter. Kaka Najar, the carpenter, is so impressed with Aria's will he offers her Sky-blue paint to finish her project. The color represents the courage, peace and wisdom of this young lady. The illustrations on each page show hints of blue to represent the Sky-blue bench and it's meaning. The culture and details of Afghanistan are depicted in the details of the pictures and represents cultural diversity.
This is a sweet story of a little girl named Aria who, after an accident, had to attend school with a "helper leg", and her school did not have any benches or places for her to sit comfortably. Although she felt defeated, her mother and brother encouraged her to stay the course. After experiencing a lot of pain, she finally comes up with an idea to make a bench. Her perseverance served her well, and she ends up making a bench for herself, finishing it up with the perfect color - sky blue. The best part of the story happens when the rest of the girls at school decide that they want to learn to make a bench too, and this changes the school like a ripple effect of a rock tossed into a lake. It is a moving and touching story of overcoming personal challenges, but also the effect that one can have on those around them. I think this is a beautiful story that belongs on the shelves of every classroom everywhere.
Lovely story about a Afghan girl's perseverance after surviving a tragic accident with a land mine (this is not directly discussed) and losing her leg. Aria wants to continue her education, but finds it very difficult to sit on the floor of her school room with her helper leg. All of the school's furniture was burned by displaced families to keep warm during the winter months of fighting. Aira rises to the challenge by building her own bench for the school room with her mother's support even though her classmates say that girls don't do such things. When Aria surprises her classmates with the blue bench she has built, she inspires the girls to build more furniture for their school.
I thought the voice of Aria was authentic and the book is a thoughtful introduction to the ramifications of the war in Afghanistan and the impacts on children. Illustrations are colorful and vibrant.
A young girl has a "helper leg" (prosthetic leg) and so it makes her very sore to sit on the floor of her school as the other girls do so she decides to build her own bench. I like this because disability is not very often represented in picture books and it is even rarer to find one where the disabled person, in a sense, comes to their own rescue, which is what this little resilient character does. There is a barrier to her attending school how she wants to so, instead of waiting for someone else to fix it, she decides to fix it herself. I'm not saying that's how it should be but sometimes if you wait around for others to do the fixing, it can take much longer. Also, she did have help (guidance for a carpenter and help making the bench from her little brother and mother).
Aria returns to school in Afghanistan after an accident took part of her leg. She is uncomfortable on the floor with her prosthetic or "helper-leg." Since all of the furniture is gone and was burned to keep families warm over the winter, she decides to build a bench to sit on. The other girls laugh at her but she persists by gathering scrap supplies around the village. The carpenter agrees to teach her and helps her draw plans and use tools to do so. He gifts her with a can of sky-blue paint. Readers see her success in building and painting the bench. This leads to her teaching the other girls how to build and furnish their classroom. A story of resilience and empowerment in a world where war is the norm.
Sweet book about an Afghan girl who lost her leg in an accident (likely related to weapons of war) who needs a better place to sit in school, so she figures out a way to build her own bench. There are a lot of heartfelt moments throughout as Aria finds the materials and gains support for what she is doing. It's a good way for kids to learn about the challenges children in other parts of the world face in getting an education. My one big frustration is one of the illustrations. Aria is working so hard to have a place to sit in class, but as she builds her bench, she is using two chairs to balance the wood...so why didn't she just take one of those chairs to school? Right, then there wouldn't have been a story at all, but then don't put chairs in the art!
Age: Kindergarten-2nd grade Identity: Prosthetic leg Location: Afghanistan
With no chairs to sit on at school, Aria cannot focus through the discomfort from her new helper leg as she sits on the ground. At first dispirited, she is determined to stay in school and find a solution: by building a bench! Aria's persistence and her community's support is heart-warming and inspiring. Just like in The Library Bus, Rahman has an amazing talent for connecting true Afghani life (of which he draws from his own lived experiences) to universal childhood emotions and experiences.
This is the second book by Bahram Rahman that I have read and it is a beautiful and powerful book! The illustrations by Peggy Collins are gorgeous!! To quote the author in the author's note, "A Sky-Blue Bench honors the resilience of Afghan children in the face of great personal loss and injury caused by land mines and UXO. Although Aria has limited resources, she-like many other children in Afghanistan-confronts life as it is and solves her problems with creativity and hard work. She won't give up until life is better for her and the people around her." Bravo Bahram for your wonderful story about Aria and her life!!!!
A story about resilience. Aria is a girl with a "helper" leg who goes back to school after an accident and finds it difficult to do things in life that she did before. With support from her family and her community, she learns how to build a sky-blue bench. This little girl is determine to not let anything hold her back being at school. This is a wonderful story that makes you want to turn the page and find out "what will Aria do?"
A great book to have in the classroom or to show little girls how to become strong women and to stick together.
My daughter Aria LOVED this book. The illustrations were also very beautiful!