Written by Veera Hiranandani
Penguin Random House, 2012
Grades 4-8, 930L
224 pages, 46000 words
Cultural Identity, Depression,
I'm in school, sitting with my hair hanging long down the back of my chair, my arm around my best friend, Sam. We're planning our next sleepover. Sam's parents have the tent and sleeping bags; Her mom even bought us cool spy pen-flashlights just for the occasion. To top it off, it's Friday, and summer's only two weeks away.
Jack, my teacher, passes out recipes from the next and last country our fifth-grade class will be studying
India. I look down and see the makings of biryani, which is a special kind of rice dish. Jack always teaches us about the country's food first, then gives us the lay of the land and the history. Getting to know the food, Jack says, is the best way to really understand a country, just like sharing a meal with someone helps you get to know them. You can tell a lot from what a person eats. I agree.
This book about a middle-schooler with parents from different cultures and religions transported me back to school days when you analyzed everything you thought and said and dreamed, hoping it wasn't too weird so you could fit in, whatever that meant. But it clearly speaks to modern audiences whose experiences are wholly different yet fundamentally the same. Sonia's authentic voice makes this a story which makes you laugh, cry, and cheer...and cry again. A cast of endearing, believable characters helps tackle struggles of pre-teen identity. It explores the issues in a personal way, but with a complete grasp on the target audience. Very few middle school books can manage this as appropriately. Spoiler warning for parents: this book does contain an instance of French kissing and orthodox practitioners may be frustrated by the lack of parental guidance to the kid characters, but the author's sincere treatment leaves ample room for discussion. We need more books like this.
1. If you enjoyed Veera's writing, try some of her other books. Karen reviewed the first book in Veera's Phoebe G. Green series on her blog.
2. Fellow MMGMers recommend these books featuring cultural diversity:
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman, reviewed by Randomly Reading and Ms. Yingling Reads
Unidentified Suburban Object, by Mike Jung, reviewed by Jess on The Reading Nook
This is Just a Test, by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang reviewed by Ms. Yingling Reads
Save Me A Seat, by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, reviewed here on Bookish Ambition, and by Karen on Ms. Yingling Reads
The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods, reviewed by Alex on Randomly Reading
The Grand Plan To Fix Everything, by Uma Krishnaswami, reviewed by Joanne.
3. You can learn more about the author, her writing process, and peek behind the scenes of The Whole Story with interviews from Uma Krishnaswami and on Here, There, Everywhere.
Have you reviewed a Marvelous Middle Grade Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!
Check out all the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations for October 16, 2017.
MMGM started way back in 2010 by Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of Lost Cities. Each week, participating bloggers review our favorite books for ages 8-12. Why not join us?