Under the Persimmon Tree

Suzanne Fisher Staples

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Intertwined portraits of courage and hope in Afghanistan and Pakistan 

Najmah, a young Afghan girl whose name means “star,” suddenly finds herself alone when her father and older brother are conscripted by the Taliban and her mother and newborn brother are killed in an air raid. An American woman, Elaine, whose Islamic name is Nusrat, is also on her own. She waits out the war in Peshawar, Pakistan, teaching refugee children under the persimmon tree in her garden while her Afghan doctor husband runs a clinic in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Najmah’s father had always assured her that the stars would take care of her, just as Nusrat’s husband had promised that they would tell Nusrat where he was and that he was safe. As the two look to the skies for answers, their fates entwine. Najmah, seeking refuge and hoping to find her father and brother, begins the perilous journey through the mountains to cross the border into Pakistan. And Nusrat’s persimmon-tree school awaits Najmah’s arrival. Together, they both seek their way home.

Known for her award-winning fiction set in South Asia, Suzanne Fisher Staples revisits that part of the world in this beautifully written, heartrending novel.


Under the Persimmon Tree is a 2006 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.


Read an Excerpt

Under the Persimmon Tree
NAJMAH Golestan Village, Kunduz Province, Northern Afghanistan October 20011The day begins like every day in the Kunduz Hills, following the rhythms of the sun and moon. Before first light--even before the first stars begin to fade--my mother tugs at my quilt."Get up, sleepy one," she says. "It's time to light the fire!" I feel as if I've just gone to sleep. How can it be time to begin another day so soon after the last one has ended?Mada-jan leans then over my older brother, Nur. To him she says, "Get up, sleepy one. It's time to get water so that I can make tea!"Nur


Praise for Under the Persimmon Tree

"Staples powerfully and honestly expresses the plight of a civilization caught between terrorists and American bombs." -- Starred, Publishers Weekly

"As with her Newbery Honor Book, Shabanu (1989), its the personal story, not the history, that compels as it takes readers beyond the modern stereotypes of Muslims as fundamentalist fanatics. There's hope in heartbreaking scenes of kindness and courage." -- Starred, Booklist

"Readers...will welcome this fascinating glimpse into a world about which far too little has been written." -- School Library Journal

"Staples brings beautiful, war-torn Afghanistan closer in this affecting, eye-opening novel." -- Kirkus Reviews

"The book manages to make the sometimes distant-seeming conflict immediate and vivid to American readers. A poignant picture of the cost of regional and global turmoil." -- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Staples's prose is spare yet taut with emotion, creating a rich, powerful story that young readers will devour and that all school and classroom libraries should stock." -- VOYA

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Suzanne Fisher Staples

  • Suzanne Fisher Staples, a former UPI correspondent, is the author of many acclaimed books for young readers, including Shiva’s Fire, Dangerous Skies, and the Newbery Honor Book Shabanu. She lives in Nicholson, Pennsylvania.

  • Suzanne Fisher Staples Copyright Virginia Morgan
    Suzanne Fisher Staples


Available Formats and Book Details

Under the Persimmon Tree

Suzanne Fisher Staples

Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List, American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association Notable Children's Books, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, NYPLC Children's Books 100, NYPL Books for the Teen Age, Parents' Choice Award Winner, NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, Georgia Peach Book Award Master List, Maine Student Book Award Master List, Tennessee Intermediate Volunteer State Book Award Master Lis, Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List
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