Sunday, July 03, 2022

Tamarind and the Star of Ishtar

Bilan, Jasbinder. Tamarind and the Star of Ishtar
June 28th 2022 by Chicken House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Tamarind has grown up in Bristol, England with just her father, who is silent about what happened to her mother when Tamarind was very small. Now that he is getting married to Chloe, who wants to visit India for their honeymoon, he is taking Tamarind to stay with the family of her mother, Chinty. She is to stay with her Aunt Simran, her children Arjun and Sufia, and her grandmother, Nanijee, in the family home in the Himalayas, a bit distant from Rinigaar, where Simran usually lives. The grandmother has Uma and Chacha Dev to help her. It's hard for Tamarind to get used to everything, especially the spicier food, even though Uma is good about giving her the plain rice she requests but also introducing her to some of the milder local delicacies. Arjun, who is nine, is glad to have a companion, but Sufia, who is a teenager, is very difficult. She was very close to Tamarind's mother, and resents the younger girl for her mother's death. Tamarind is glad to meet a local girl,  Ishta while she is out in the yard one evening. Ishta has a monkey, Hanu, and the two get along, but none of the family have ever seen this girl, and there are no houses nearby. Tamarind learns more about her mother, and starts to feel more connected to her family and her Indian heritage. She realizes who Ishta must be, and when a bad situation occurs during a storm, she is able to put all of the facets of her past into perspective. 
Strengths: I love books about children who go to spend summers with relatives in other countries; I always secretly hoped my mother would send me to spend the summer on my grandmother's dairy farm, but she never did! The family dynamic between Tamarind and her father, as well as with his new wife, Chloe, was very realistic and nicely nuanced. It also made sense that Tamarind wouldn't have been sent to visit her grandmother when she was younger. There are lots of good connections with Indian culture and mythology, and the landscape is incorporated into the story nicely. I enjoyed reading this one, and it reminded me a little bit of some classic children's titles. 
Weaknesses: Since Tamarind never knew life with her mother, it seemed odd that she spent so much time grieving for her. 
What I really think: While I really enjoyed this author's Asha and the Spirit Bird, this book lacked the adventure of that title, which has circulated well with fans of Butterworth's Running on the Roof of the World. It also didn't have as many details about every day life. This is a title I will buy if I have money left in the budget in February, since it might take some hand selling to get students to pick up a title that is more philosophical.  

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