Wednesday, October 04, 2017

#WNDB- India

25712017Chanani, Nidhi. Pashmina
October 3rd 2017 by First Second
E ARC from Netgalley

Priyanka has trouble fitting in to her high school, although she has a good friend and a lot of artistic ability. She doesn't get along terribly well with her mother, who came to the US right before Priyanka was born and won't talk about Priyanka's father. Luckily, family friend Uncle Jatin makes time to take her to an Indian dinner and picks her up from school. When his wife is expecting, Pri worries that the new baby will cut down on the amount of time he can spend with her, and she prays to Shakti that this won't happen. When baby Shilpa is born prematurely and has health problems, Pri feels horrible. Finding a shawl of her mother's that affords her visions of life in India helps her feel a little better. Her mother still won't talk about India, but when Pri wins $500 in an art contest, she wants to go visit her aunt there. After praying to Shakti, her aunt calls and asks if Pri can come and stay with her since she is also expecting. When Pri gets to India, she is sad that the shawl no longer offers her visions, but by talking to her aunt and exploring the country, she is able to learn the background of the shawl as well as her own parentage. She returns to the US with a renewed appreciation for her mother.
Strengths: The artwork is very beautiful, and I loved the use of color for the fantasy sequences and the black and white for every day. I'd love to see more graphic novels that talk about the process of settling in the US. Many of my students were either brought to the US when very young, or are the first generation born here, and I'm sure there are lots of interesting stories. There is a lot of good cultural information in this, not only about food and clothing, but about attitudes and mores as well.
Weaknesses: Priyanka seemed more like a middle school student than a high school one. There were a fair number of reviews on Goodreads that weren't as happy with this as I was, and I think the disconnect between the stated age of the character and her reaction to events might be behind that.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Readers of El Deafo, Roller Girl, and Sunny Side Up will love this one!

30635597Kelkar, Supriya. Ahimsa.
2 October 2017 by Lee & Low/Tu Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Above the Treeline

In a small town in India in 1942, Anjali is worried that her mother has lost her job working for a British colonel, Brent. At the age of ten, her biggest worry is that there won't be enough money to buy a new dress for her for the holiday. It turns out that there are much bigger problems brewing. Anjali's mother has quit her job so that she can join the resistance to the British, which in her case means learning to spin and weave so that India isn't dependent on the British processing their cotton. Anjali has a friend, Irfaan, who is Muslim, and while the two of them never minded the religious difference, this also becomes a problem. Anjali's mother is upset with the way Untouchables, whom Ghandi started to call Harijans, are treated, and decides that she and Anjali will clean out their own outhouse instead of leaving it for Mohan. Mohan, of course, needs the work, but the discussion with him about what his people need gives them some insight. For one thing, the term he preferred was "Dalit". As the political situation in India becomes more and more serious, it's not enough for Anjali and her mother to give food and treats to the Dalit; they set up a school, and eventually, the mother is taken to jail for "inciting riots". While Anjali fears for her mother, she would like to see change in her society but realizes that it will be very difficult.
Strengths: I especially liked that the author based this on her grandmother's actions at this point in history. There are a lot of great details about what every day life was like, and good discussions about the Indian social structure and how it wasn't beneficial to the society as a whole. Anjali is a typical ten year old, who is more concerned with how things affect her. The inclusion of an older uncle who is opposed to the family's work in the resistance is a good one. This is a fascinating period of history that I wish more of my students knew about.
Weaknesses: There might be a lot of this that middle grade readers might not understand. Some more extensive notes on Indian history at this time would have been helpful. Also, I wish that Anjali had been a little older and had a better understanding of her society.
What I really think: I thought this was a great book, but it's not something my students are going to pick up without a bit of convincing. I have Bradbury's A Moment Comes, Sensai's A Ticket to India (which discusses Partition from a modern view point), and my favorite, Venkatraman's Climbing the Stairs, but my students are not interested in historical fiction as much as I would like them to be.

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