Kelly, Lynne. Chained.
8 May, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (BYR)
Nominated for the Cybils by Irene Latham
Hastin's sister is very ill with a fever, and his mother takes her to the doctor, even though his father has passed away and the family is barely surviving in rural India. In order to pay the bill, the mother goes to work cleaning the house of a wealthy man, but when he starts to abuse her, Hastin looks for another way. He is hired by Timir, an elephant trainer, who offers to pay the hospital bill in exchange for Hastin's work for a year. The first thing Hastin has to do is to trap a young elephant, and he feels so badly about separating Nandita from her herd that he promises to take care of her. This is difficult, since the training is harsh and Nandita suffers greatly from the cruelty. Hastin makes friends with the cook, Ne Min, but is forever getting in trouble and having more time added to his enforced servitude. Nandita is almost sold to another circus owner, and things might have improved for Hastin, but Nandita suffers a heat stroke. The sale is called off, and the abuse gets worse. Eventually, Hastin needs to decide is staying is the best option for both him and Nandita.
Strengths: This was a good depiction of the struggles that children in other countries face. The note at the end explaining that there are laws in India forbidding this kind of treatment of animals and children (but that they are ignored) is helpful. This would be a good book to read in conjunction with Tua and the Elephant.
Weaknesses: Cover is not appealing; when will publishers realize that this makes a HUGE difference? This is a good book, but not on a topic that students pick up on their own, so an appealing cover is especially crucial when trying to get this into students' hands.