Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Girl of the Southern Sea

Kadarusman, Michelle. Girl of the Southern Sea
May 23rd 2019 by Pajama Press
Public library copy

Nia lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her father, who runs a fried banana cart, and her brother, Rudi, whose birth led to their mother's death. Her father drinks excessively, often taking the money needed for rent on their shack or for food. Nia no longer goes to school, since the family does not have the fees. She works around the home and helps her father with the banana cart. When she is taking the rent to the landlord, she is involved in a bad bus accident and is the only one who escapes unharmed. A local merchant, Oskar, helps her home, and then spends a lot of time around the cart telling everyone about her miracle of survival. Nia charges more for the bananas and life seems to be looking up, since she has also decided not to let her father have any money at all, lest he spend it on alcohol. However, the people who willingly buy her good luck fritters eventually turn on her for her higher prices, her father leaves and is apparently in another city with another family, and Oskar breaks into the house claiming he is only looking for the dowry Nia's father promised him. Nia is not ready to go down so easily. She confronts Oskar and his mother, and even hunts down her father. She even gets a job as a literacy tutor at her old school, and is able to make a better life for her and Rudi.
Strengths: I love books like Cruz's Everlasting Nora, Saeed's Amal Unbound, or Venkatraman's A Bridge Home; and I don't know that I've ever read anything set in Indonesia! The details of housing, clothing and daily life are all good, and Nia's fight to improve her life is admirable. This is an #ownvoices book, but since the author doesn't currently live in Indonesia, she had a sensitivity writer. I love that attention to detail.
Weaknesses: Not a weakness with this book, but I would like to see books set in other countries where the children are not horribly treated. I don't want my students thinking that everywhere else in the world is a horrible place. They need to know that sometimes it is, but there should be some balance.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Canadian writers seem to be putting out books on more cultures than US ones? There have been a lot of great books coming out of Canada, and I'm glad that we get them. (Unlike Carrol's Ultra, Scholastic! I'm still bitter!)
Ms. Yingling

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