Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In this coming-of-age novel, Suzanne Fisher Staples uses language rich in imagery to create a memorable world far removed from the average Western youngster’s experience. Through the clear narrative voice of Shabanu, an eleven-year-old girl in a nomadic culture, the reader comes to understand the joys and sufferings of life for this extended family—a life so different from, yet hauntingly familiar to, the universal struggles and yearnings of the human heart. The setting of Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind is the Cholistan desert between northwest India and southeast Pakistan. The reader learns much about the care of camels, the avoidance of scorpions, the dangers of desert storms, and the priceless value of water. Along with Shabanu, the reader experiences the wonders of birth, the onset of menarche, the wildness of desert carnivals, and the Muslim rituals of weddings and funerals.

Through chapters averaging eight pages, the author moves the reader along quickly. Each of the twenty-three chapter headings is a name or an important event, many in the language of the people of Cholistan. Context usually unlocks the meaning of the words, or the reader may refer to the glossary for a definition and a pronunciation guide. Since many of the words are nearly onomatopoeic, this feature adds to the novel’s authentic sound and thus the reader’s enjoyment of the words. Furthermore, a map locates the action in the Cholistan desert. The routes and...

(The entire section is 579 words.)