Words in the Dust

by Trent Reedy

Arthur A. Levine Books
October 2013

Ages 12 – 14 . Grades 7 – 9

Library of Congress: 2010026160

Lexile measure: 670L

DRA: 60

Guided Reading: W



Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her hard stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft palate fixed. Zulaikha knows all will be provided for her--"Inshallah," God willing.

Then she meets Meena, who offers to teach her the Afghan poetry she taught her late mother. And the Americans come to her village, promising not just new opportunities and dangers, but surgery to fix her face. These changes could mean a whole new life for Zulaikha--but can she dare to hope they'll come true?
Trent Reedy

Trent Reedy is the author of Divided We Fall, Burning Nation, and The Last Full Measure, a trilogy about the second American Civil War; If You're Reading This; Stealing Air; and Words in the Dust, which was the winner of the Christopher Medal and an Al Roker's Book Club pick on the Today Show. Trent and his family live near Spokane, Washington. Please visit his website at


  • "I love this story -- it leaves no doubt that hope and love speak the same language everywhere." -- Suzanne Fisher Staples, author of SHABANU: DAUGHTER OF HTE WIND

    "Both heart-wrenching and timely." -- KIRKUS REVIEWS

    "A beautifully written novel that introduces young readers to a fascinating culture." -- PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

    "Readers will readily find themselves rooting for Zulaikha in this simply told yet thoughtful story." -- THE BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS


--- - From the foreword by Katherine Paterson:

I'd been eager to read this book ever since Trent first told me he was going to try to write it. And he has done in Zulaikha exactly what I hoped he would do. He has given me an Afghan friend for whom I care so deeply I cannot read a news report without wondering how what has occurred is affecting her life... I am profoundly grateful for an introduction to a land and culture that are foreign to me through this beautiful and often heart-breaking tale of one strong and compassionate girl. She will live on in my heart and, I feel sure, the heart of every reader of this fine book.