Thursday 17 May 2012

138. Mountain Wolf by Roseanne Hawke

Mountain Wolf by Roseanne Hawke
Published May 2012 Harper Collins

From the publisher:

Razaq Nadeem lives in the tribal area of Kala Dhaka, known as Black Mountain, in Pakistan. When an earthquake strikes the area, and his family is lost, Razaq is told by his dying father to flee to Rawalpindi, where his uncle Javaid lives. In the aftermath of the quake, all is chaos. Razaq attends a school set up by aid workers for the homeless, learns some English and helps with the younger boys. But danger is around every corner. 

This book is a work of fiction, but the sad and horrific fact is that what happens to Razaq in this book is happening to children in different parts of the world every day.

Orphaned by the devastating earthquake, Razaq struggles to know who to trust.  When he is offered a job in the city that will allow him to send money back to his village he takes the risk and leaves everything he knows with a complete stranger.  On his arrival in the city he is sold to a cafe owner, where he will work for nothing but food and shelter, it's here that he finds out what some of the boys have to do for money and security.

Things get worse for Razaq when he is sold again, and this time it is for a much more sinister purpose.  He is sold to Mr Malik, a man with a beautiful white house, where Razaq has his own room and plenty to eat.  At first, Razaq thinks that he may have a good life here, but he learns that not only is he a prisoner, he is to be trained as a malishia.  A malishia is a masseur, but a masseur that when asked 'what else do you do?' answers with 'whatever you want'.  Like many orphaned children on Pakistan, Razaq has been sold into the sex slave business.

Unlike the many hundreds of other children either living on the street or working as slaves, Razaq has one thing going for him.  He has family, an uncle, Javaid, who is looking for him, and refuses to give up until he finds him.

No doubt about it, this book is confronting.  It is descriptive without being explicit, but it still makes for uncomfortable reading in some places, especially I would think, for younger readers.  I think Roseanne goes that one step further than an author like Deborah Ellis who also tackles big issues for younger readers, often with the less favourable aspects being implied rather than explained. There is nothing implied in this book, it's all there, so be aware of that when recommending this book to teenage readers. It's an important story, and I am not suggesting that you avoid buying books that deal with tough issues, but I think it's important to be aware of the content when buying and recommending books, especially for a school library.

I had little knowledge about the child slave trade, and specifically the child sex slave business.  Rosanne spent time in Pakistan where she researched this book, and she lists a number of her resources she used at the back of the book for those of you who would like to find out more about this horrible situation.

Who will like this book: Girls and boys age 14+
Read it if you like: Deborah Ellis or Marrying Ameera by Rosanne Hawke

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