Teacher's Guide to Thunder Over Kandahar

Thanks to Wordfest, Calgary, 2010.

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1. Explain Yasmine's feelings in the first chapter about wearing a hijab in Oxford,
England versus Herat, Afghanistan and then her feelings about wearing a burka.

2. What are the "do nots" listed in chapter 2 that Yasmine has to get used to now that she
lives in Herat?

3. When Professor Maywand talks to Yasmine's father, a professor as well, he says
on page 17, "Here, today, discussion can kill, my friend." What is he referring to

4. Do you understand Yasmine's parents when they can't leave for England after the first
encounter in the street with the Taliban but then change their minds when the Taliban
attack Yasmine at school? Why or why not? If you were her parents, what would you
do the same or differently?

5. Yasmine's father says on page 80, "It is art, never war, that carries culture forward".
How do you interpret his quote and what are the consequences for the Afghan culture?

6. What is normally done in preparation for a wedding in Tamanna's culture and why is
Tamanna not looking forward to her wedding day?

7. Find a few examples of the differences between British and Canadian English words
used in the novel.

8. Give two examples cited in the book of how foreign armies have learned little about
Afghan customs and the Afghan people. Explain how this could be a problem for the

9. Yasmine ends up stealing the anti-diarrhea pills for Tamanna. Was it the right or the
wrong thing to do? Explain your answer.

10. What was your reaction to discovering that Tamanna's mother, Mor, was "old,
almost 29"? How old was Mor when Tamanna was born? What does this tell you about
life expectancy for some women in Afghanistan?

11. Which character traits describe Yasmine and Tamanna as they take the unexpected route to freedom?

12. Explain Tamanna's frustration on page 187 with picking sides in the war, the Allied
Forces or the Taliban.

13. How does Yasmine set up the deception to save Tamanna's life?

14. What role does Kabeer play in shaping the destinies of Tamanna and Yasmine?

15. Which outcomes described in the postscript of the novel are surprising to you and


1. Write a journal entry in Yasmine's diary about her feelings after the Taliban beat her
mother in the first chapter.

2. Find a poem that you enjoy by the Afghan poet Rumi, try to memorize it and then
recite it to the class. (An excellent resource is the book, The Essential Rumi, by Coleman

3. Give an oral summary of all of the cultural customs that you discovered for the first
time while reading this novel.

4. Write an original short story inspired by Yasmine's quote on page 134, "...when there
are no reasonable choices, one must make an unreasonable decision".

5. On a copy of a map, trace out Yasmine's entire Afghan journey starting in Herat and
ending in Quetta, Pakistan. What form of transportation marks each leg of the journey?
Write a sentence or two about how you felt for her at each stage of the journey.

6. Write a letter from Yasmine to Tamanna after her encounter with Noor as an adult.

7. The author, Ms. Mckay, encourages and welcomes e-mails from students who have
read Thunder Over Kandahar. Write her at: DMcMac111@aol.com

1. Prepare an Afghan breakfast of fruit, tea and bread with the following items:
pomegranates and sweet melon, mint green tea and naan bread. (Afghan-style naan
bread can be purchased at many Middle Eastern grocery stores or make your own:

2. Research the Silk Road to understand why the stories so fascinated Tamanna and
(Ms. McKay highly recommends the following book: Adventures on the Ancient Silk
Road published in 2009 by Priscilla Galloway, Annick Press)

3. In 2009, artists from 3 continents (including Calgarians!) compose and perform a
rock anthem for peace in Afghanistan with proceeds from the song supporting Afghan
women's education. The video for the song, Countryman (Freedom From War), can be
viewed at the following site:
http://www.countrymansong.com/thesong.html. The lyrics can also be found at:

4. For a summary of the legend of Queen Scheherazade: http://www.wisegeek.com/who-is-scheherazade.htm

5. Which are the main ethnic groups of Afghanistan and where are they generally found?

6. A recent (Aug. 9, 2010) Time magazine article underscoring violence against women
in Afghanistan:

7. Read more novels with similar themes by another Canadian author, Deborah Ellis:
The Breadwinner, Parvanna's Journey and Mud City.

Also by Sharon E. McKay, War Brothers, a young adult novel set in Uganda about
children forced into fighting in the army and winner of the 2009 Arthur Ellis Award.

Curriculum Connections
English Language Arts

Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent:
-to explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences.
-to comprehend literature and texts in oral, print, visual and multimedia forms, and
respond personally, critically and creatively.
-to construct meaning from texts, compare the choices and behaviours of characters
portrayed with those of self and others.
-to analyze how plot develops; the connection between plot and subplot; and the
interrelationship of plot, setting and characters.
-to identify and explain conflict, and discuss how it develops and may be resolved.
- to analyze, respond to and create complex texts and identify and examine ways in which
cultural and societal influences are reflected in a variety of Canadian and international
-to develop a variety of reading, comprehension and writing strategies.

Social Studies

Students will explore the origins and complexities of ideologies and development of
individual and collective responses to contemporary local, national and global issues.


Students will develop techniques that enhance vocal and physical communication and
they will develop the ability to select appropriate physical and vocal expression for
feelings, ideas and images.

Information and Communication Technology
Students will access, use and communicate information from a variety of technologies.
Students will seek alternative viewpoints, using information technologies.
Students will use electronic research techniques to construct personal knowledge and

For a United Nations map of Afghanistan:

More information on the author from the publisher's website: