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Iqbal by Francesco D'Adamo
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"Iqbal" tells a fictionalized story of the very real Iqbal Masih, through the eyes of Fatima, a girl whose parents sold her to a carpet manufacturer/moneylender in order to be able to repay their debts. Each day they work for 12 hours at a loom weaving rugs with little respite. And at the end of the day, their "master," Hussain Khan, erases one notch from each child's debt board, signifying their "pay" of one single rupee. Which, while coming across as a tiny payment, keep in mind that a debt of $22, would be equivalent to 2,304 Pakistani Rupees. But even their fraction of a cent wage is ceremonial, as the master tends to keep the children until they outgrow their usefulness. And any rebellion, even a small acts of frustration, is met with harsh punishment, possibly days locked in a pit with little light, and no food or water,

Enter Iqbal.. Iqbal is a talented carpet weaver, effortlessly creating beautiful patterns and artwork that none of the other slaves could dream to accomplish. This makes him quite valuable to Hussain Khan, but he is a rebel in every sense of the word. While all of the other children are resigned to their fate, Iqbal knows that what they suffer is not right. This belief, combined with confidence and charisma inspire the others to dream of the outside world - to hope for a future that will once again include their families.

Iqbal escapes (after destroying a priceless carpet of his own creation, in front of Khan and his foreign customers, and days in the pit), spends a few days on the run, discovers a bit about the world and learns of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front of Pakistan - a movement dedicated to ending child labor. However, Iqbal makes the mistake of returning to Khans labor camp with police, who are handsomely rewarded. But, after months of punishment and labor, Iqbal escapes again - with the dream of ending all child labor - connects with the BLLF. frees Fatima and the rest of the children and has Khan arrested. He then goes on to become famous for his work eliminating child labor camps, speak to a UN Council, and win a humanitarian award, including a scholarship to an American College. A happy ending for all, as most of the former slaves returned to their families.

That is until, like in real life, Iqbal was gunned down by an anonymous assassin while visiting his family for a cultural holiday - their version of Thanksgiving, if I recall correctly. He was 13.

While this book is depressing for the most part, especially at the end, it really gives you hope. For me, though, there was a sort of relief. There's always so much negativity about the Islamic regimes in the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. And while criticism on many areas is justly deserved - it's still an awful place to be a woman - it's great to read something with a little bit of positivity for once, to know that even though such awful practices are happening there are people in the afflicted areas working to stop it.

But that's a stretch at best. This book creates a jarring juxtaposition on the life of children as I know it. When I think of children in difficult situation, I think of a broken Playstation. Reading such an account of the lives of child laborers was absolutely heartbreaking. I remember at one point during my reading, when Fatima was informing the reader of the pit, the thought crossed my mind that these kids would consider most of my problems luxuries. It's a depressing read, with a kernel of hope, but what it does best is make you take inventory of your own life.

It's not really a long read, so I would probably use it over the course of a few weeks. Because this is fiction, I think it'd be great to pair with a non-fiction book on Iqbal, or have the students research articles about child labor in Pakistan and surrounding countries. they could compare the accounts and include some of their own views as well, especially with Contrasts and Contradictions. ( )
  JFinnegan | Apr 2, 2016 |
Inspired by a true story of the boy in Pakistan who helped in the fight to liberate children from slavery. Booktalk: Sometimes families hit hard times and it's hard to pay the bills and the rent or buy food and clothing. Some families manage to make it with welfare or food stamps. But in some parts of the world, there are families so poor they will sell their own children to work for other people, even knowing they may never see their kids again. Fatima is only 10 years old but her parents have sold her to Hussain Khan who owns a carpet factory. Everyday, Fatima and the other kids who work there tie thousands of knots, making carpets with their little fingers. They work hours and hours in the hot, dusty factory and some of the kids are chained to their stations so they can't escape. For three years Fatima has worked here, hoping someday to leave and see her family again. It doesn't seem like she or any of the kids will ever leave the carpet factory until a boy named Iqbal Masih shows up to work there. There have been lots of kids who've worked at the factory but Iqbal is different. He's not afraid of working in the carpet factory or of the boss. And amazingly, he believes he and the kids at the factory will all someday be free.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |


5 stars

This novel is fictionalized account of Iqbal Masih's time as a child laborer. Iqbal's bravery and determination to be free, freed not only him but thousands of other children in bonded labor. Heartbreaking and well worth recommending. Iqbal Masih's true life story can be read in "The Little Hero: One Boy's Fight for Freedom- Iqbal Masih's Story." ( )
  Feleciak | Jan 11, 2016 |
A very powerful story about the realities of child labor and slavery. The author does a great job with characterization - feelings, emotions, reactions - as the story is told from a child's perspective. The author brings out emotion in the reader and forces the reader to face realities of many children today.

Curricular connection - a great book for fifth grade and up about child slavery and labor. I would support it with details from the life of the real Iqbal as well as facts about modern day child slavery.
  jegammon | Feb 8, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0689854455, Hardcover)

"You see, for Iqbal I was not invisible. I existed, and he made me free."

For Fatima and the other unseen children of Hussain Khan's carpet factory, Iqbal Masih's arrival is the end of hope and its beginning. It is Iqbal who tells them that their family's debt will never be cancelled, no matter how many inches of progress they make in their rugs, no matter how neat the knots or perfect the pattern. But it is also Iqbal who is brave enough to talk about the future. "Fatima," he promises, "next spring you and I are going to go and fly a kite. Remember that, whatever happens."

This is the story of the real Iqbal: a courageous thirteen-year-old boy who knew that his life was worth more than a rug, that chaining children to looms to work hours without rest was not right, and that there was a way to stop the abuse.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A fictionalized account of the Pakistani child who escaped from bondage in a carpet factory and went on to help liberate other children like him before being gunned down at the age of thirteen.

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