Wednesday, May 13, 2020

American as Paneer Pie

Kelkar, Supriya. American as Paneer Pie
May 12th 2020 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lehka loves being on the swim team and hanging out with neighbor and friend Noah in her town an hour from Detroit, but she occasionally wishes she weren't the only Desi girl in her school. When new neighbors move in and have a girl her age AND have just come from India, Lehka doesn't quite know what to think. There are a lot of things she has in common with Avantika, but since her new neighbor is a fob (fresh of the boat), she doesn't understand that there are some things you just don't do-- let the other girls know you use coconut oil on your hair, don't bring "smelly" Indian food for lunch, and try to fly beneath the haters' radar instead of challenging them. Things seem to work out for Avantika, but Lehka struggles. She doesn't want to shave her legs even though her swim teammates are pressuring her, but she also doesn't feel at home with her Indian friends in the city. She loves celebrating Hindu holidays with her family and the always understanding Noah, but feels awkward when she is with friends and has to make sure the snacks are gelatin-free because her family is vegetarian. She puts up with constant, daily insults from boys in her class, but when there is a racist incident in her neighborhood and a candidate who is hostile to immigrants is elected, Lehka reexamines her relationships and her level of activism in order to try to make things right for herself and her family.
Strengths: This had lots of great details about Lehka's family dynamics and culture. It was interesting that while her family was unique in their town, they did have access to a larger Indian community in Detroit. Her complicated feelings about Avantika are so typically middle school that it was painful to read about-- but SO true!
Weaknesses: I wish that we didn't see the kind of pervasive racism Lehka experiences, but hopefully books like this will make readers aware and help to end it.
What I really think: This author's Ahimsa has done well for historical fiction in my library, and American as Paneer Pie is a great choice for students who like realistic fiction, especially those who enjoyed other books with culturally connected characters like Ramee's A Good Kind of Trouble, Bajaj's Count Me In, and Pancholy's The Best at It.

Lai, Remy. Fly on the Wall
May 12th 2020 by Henry Holt & Company
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Henry feels like his family is much too overprotective. He is also hiding a secret from his best friend Phoebe, so when his trip to go to Singapore to spend time with his father is canceled, he feels a need to leave Australia. To prove that he's not a baby, he manages to get himself on a flight, which the help of Phoebe, who manages to hide his whereabouts from his older sister, who is supposed to be keeping tabs on him. Told in a mixture of pictures and text, we find out that Henry has started an online web comic that has lots of views... and which is very mean to the vast majority of the people he draws, including Phoebe. When a boy from school who knows that Henry is behind the comic is on the same plane, Henry's anxieties ramp up and cause him difficulties during his journey.
Strengths: I love Lai's illustrations, and she does a great job of showing what immigrant life like when there are cultural expectations that might be somewhat different from the predominate culture, and when there are ties to family who don't live near. Friend drama is always a huge problem with children, as is wanting to be seen as more mature.
Weaknesses: Henry makes some very bad choices, especially where the online comic is concerned, but he never suffers any consequences for his behavior.
What I really think: This seems a bit young for my students, and I need to see what the text size is in the print version before buying. I thought Pie in the Sky was fantastic, but it has circulated poorly, I suspect mainly because the print is so tiny. Weird, but true.
Ms. Yingling

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