Senzai, N.H. Ticket to India
November 17th 2015 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
For Maya, a family trip back to Pakistan is tinged with grief over the death of her beloved grandfather. Her grandmother, whose health is also not good, is upset that the two of them were not able to make a long planned trip back to India. Surprising Maya, the grandmother tells the story of her family's journey from their home in India to Pakistan during the partitioning of India in the 1940s. The grandmother's family was killed in an attack on the train, and the grandmother had to rely on others to get by. Before leaving their country, the family buried treasure that included the family Quran as well as a ring she had always hoped to give to her husband. After learning about this, Maya and her older sister Zara are on board with going alone with their grandmother to India. However, once there, the grandmother ends up in the hospital. The girls know they should go home, but since their grandmother had made all of the travel arrangements, they decide to try to get to her small town and find the chest. India can be a dangerous place, especially for children alone, and when separated from Zara, Maya ends up being the target of a kidnapping scheme. With the help of Jai, an Indian boy who is orphaned and working for less than savory characters so that he can provide for his younger sister, Maya tries to fulfill her grandmother's dream of returning to her home and retrieving the family artifacts.
Strengths: I find India to be fascinating, and the Partition is a historical event that few of my students know about. This story gave the event a very human face, which was nice, and set the history against modern day adventure. The details about being in Pakistan and India are very vivid, and the fact that Maya is from the US and doesn't completely understand the culture will make this easier for readers in the US to understand. Very interesting.
Weaknesses: This worried me a good deal. The choices that Maya makes are HUGELY bad, and could well have ended in her death. She makes bad decisions more than once, even when her sister tries to dissuade her. While this is realistic, it kind of freaked me out a bit. My students will not be bothered by this, nor are they likely to be in a situation where they are on their own in India.
What I really think: I'm always trying to get my students to read about other places in the world, and this does balance adventure with serious family issues well, with the added bonus of history.