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Staples, Suzanne Fisher. (2003). Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 240 pp.

Grade Range: 6-12

Genre: contemporary fiction

Summary and Critique

    Shabanu is an eleven-year old girl growing up in present-day Pakistan. She and her family live in the Cholistan Desert where they raise camels. Life is hard but happy as long as Shabanu can tend to her camels and spend time with her family. Of course, Shabanu knows life will become more complicated once she and her sister marry brothers within the next year. Shabanu is at first uninterested and unwilling to grow up, but she is comforted by the thought of always being close to her sister and gradually begins to accept her fate. All seems well until a conflict with a local wealthy land owner ends in tragedy. Now the sisters'plans are ruined, and Shabanu must become the fourth wife of the land owner's brother. Shabanu is determined to live her own life, but she also understands that in order to do what is best for her and her family, she must mature and marry.

    Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind provides readers with an insightful perspective of a culture with which many in the United States are unfamiliar; however, it is important for readers to understand that Shabanu's culture represents a cultural minority in Pakistan, as the nomad culture and the city culture are distinctly different. Staples brings authenticity to her characters by addressing common adolescent issues such as struggles with independence and coming if age. The book also cleverly includes both a glossary and pronunciation guide for readers unfamiliar with Shabanu's vocabulary.


    Newbery Honor, 1990
    International Reading Association Young Adults' Choices, 1991
    Notable Book in the field of Social Studies, 1992
    IRA Teachers' Choice
    Horn Book Fan Fare Honor Book
    New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year
    ALA Best Book for the Young Adult
    ALA Notable Book



    Love, Sex, and Romance

    Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

    The Individual vs. Society

    Challenges and Triumphs


Author Information

    Staples grew up in Pennsylvania, and was a liberal arts major in college. She worked as a foreign correspondent with United Press International in the Far East. Her thirteen years abroad included stints in Hong Kong, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. For three years she lived with a nomadic tribe in Pakistan conducting a study on poor, rural women which was her inspiration for Shabanu. Currently, Suzanne Fisher Staples lives with her husband, Wayne Harley, in Mount Dora, Florida, where she continues to write.

    For more information on Suzanne Fisher Staples: Staples's home page, with interviews, biographical information, bibliographical information, and related links. Biographical information on Staples and lesson plans for Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind.

Media Connections


    Alla en el Rancho Grande (1948) Depicts the music and romance of daily life in rural Mexico.

    Arab Diaries, Part 2: Youth (2001) Looks at the dilemmas of young women in three Arab countries.

    Arab Diaries, Part 3: Love & Marriage (2001) Addresses relationship problems in contemporary Middle Eastern countries.

    Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café. (1991). A nursing home patient teaches a dissatisfied housewife how to be confident, content, and assertive.

    Howard's End (1992) Examines families from three different social classes during Victorian England.

    How to Make an American Quilt (1995). A soon-to-be married graduate student learns of life, love, disappointment, and enlightenment while spending the summer making a quilt with her grandmother and the grandmother's friends.

    My Family/Mi Familia (1995) – Explores the struggles and triumphs of three generations of a Mexican-American family, beginning with one man's emigration from Mexico to Los Angeles in the 1930s and concluding with his descendants in the 1990s.

Online Resources

Related Texts

    Staples, Suzanne Fisher. (1993). Haveli. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 259 pp. In this sequel to Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, Shabanu experiences the complications of raising a child and being one of four wives.

    Staples, Suzanne Fisher. (2000). Shiva's Fire. New York: Frances Fosr Books, 270 pp. A talented young dancer in a Hindi village must make a difficult decision concerning her future.

    Cisneros, Sandra. (1984). The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage Books, 110 pp. Story of a girl who must deal with cultural differences and growing up in poor neighborhoods.

    Hesse, Karen. (1997). Out of the Dust. New York: Scholastic Press, 227 pp. Tells story of one girl's struggle to survive in the Dust Bowl while dealing with family and growing up.

    Johnson, Angela. (1993). Toning the Sweep. New York: Orchard Books. 103pp. Story of strong women surviving grief and hardship as a family.

Teaching Ideas

    (1) "Cultures and Families" Before reading Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, talk about different cultures and families. Have students answer question about their family: where they were born, what was it like, what are some vivid memories, traditions during holidays. Then students begin writing anything from descriptions of holidays at home or a poem about ancestors. Bind the writing assignments together and take time to talk about the similarities and differences.

    [Summarized/adapted from "Multicultural Awareness in Middle School" by Sherryl Reed in Classroom Notes Plus. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. October 1991. p.10.]

    (2) "Dowries" Have students pretend they are sociologists investigating the use and history of dowries. They should use a variety of sources to find the origin of and the reason for the custom, cultures that have practiced it, and those that still do. Ask the librarian for titles of plays, poems, and novels that deal with the subject. Interview people from other countries and older people for anecdotes about the practice. Ask members of your family if dowries were ever paid in your family. After you have written your reports, hold a panel discussion on the topic of dowries.

    (3) "Running Away" Use Shirley Jackson's"Louisa Please Come Home" in conjunction with Shabanu to discuss what happens to young people and their families when an adolescent runs away. Discuss the negative consequences that can occur. Compare and contrast what happens when Shabanu runs away and when Louisa runs away. This story can also be used to study main character traits. Make a worksheet for students to rate the main character on different traits then have them rate both main characters. In small groups discuss and try to come to agreement.

    [Summarized/adapted from "You Can't Go Home Again" by Larry R. Johannessen in Classroom Notes Plus. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. October 1992. p.12.]

(Review written by Jessica Mejia and edited by Jennifer E. Moore)