“The bridge home” Padma Venkatraman

Rated 5 stars *****. 2019. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random House). 187 p. (Includes “Glossary” and “Author’s Note.”)

TheBridgeHomeEleven-year-old Viji and twelve-year-old Rukku’s mom was abused by her husband, but always believed him when he said he was sorry. Viji knew Rukku had special needs, and had always taken care of her older sister but, when her father hit them in a fit of rage, she knew they’d have to run away.

With nowhere to go and only a bit of money, they bus to the city where Rukku becomes attached to a homeless puppy, and they become friends with two homeless boys living on a bridge. There they build their own ramshackle tent, and the boys help her forage for recyclables in stinking trash dumps with other homeless children that they sell for pittances.

Hunger dulls their strength but, as time passes, the four forge strong bonds of friendship. Though they wind up living on a grave under a tree in a cemetery after marauding men destroy their home on the bridge, Viji tries to keep believing in her dream of becoming a teacher. Each day of looking for food in trashcans, and hoping to earn money on the dump, makes her dream seem impossible.

This moving story, based on real children’s first-person accounts, is an eye opener for many who might be unaware of the plight of over 1.8 million children living on the streets of India, working and eating from its many garbage dumps while trying to avoid abuse and slavery.

Recommended for ages 10-14.

“The storyteller’s secret” by Sejal Badani

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2018. Lake Union Publishing.

The storyteller's secretFor years Jaya had been desperately trying to have children but, raised by a mother who was never affectionate, she internalized her feelings as the number of miscarriages mounted. Jaya’s inability to talk about her losses and feelings about them resulted in a rift in her marriage as she fell into a deepening depression that left no room for anything other than the loneliness of her womb.

When Jaya learns her grandfather is dying and that her mother refuses to see him, she travels to India to uncover information about her mother’s past. There she meets Ravi who, though an Untouchable, was her grandmother’s trusted friend and servant. He tells her about Amisha, her beautiful, brave, strong grandmother who lived when Great Britain ruled India. This was during a time when women had no say in how their lives were lived, but Amisha wanted to be a writer, to tell stories, and to learn English. She wanted to be heard and to be seen.

Through Ravi’s stories Jaya learns about her mother, her grandmother and her heritage, the sacrifices Ravi made for Amisha and her family, as well as the sacrifices Amisha made for her daughter. In time Jaya learns to walk tall in the pride of those who’ve gone before her, gaining Amisha’s strength to face her future and to live it with purpose.

This book was AMAZING. It completely took my breath away, and made me cry. Amisha’s story is very powerful, as is Ravi’s. I know other readers will feel the same way.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.




“Step up to the plate” Maria Singh

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Tu Books. (Lee & Low). 276 p.

StepUpToThePlateIt was 1945 and, with World War II going on, all nine-year-old Maria wanted to do was play baseball. Her aunt built planes and women were starting to play professional ball so, when her teacher started an all-girls team at her school, Maria was thrilled. Unfortunately her Mexican mother and Indian father had old-fashioned ideas about what girls could do, so she knew it would be hard to convince them to let her play.

As she learns about teamwork and baseball, Maria also starts to learn about prejudice and racism when her little brother is beat up for being different and a German classmate lashes out at her. When she finds out her father can’t become a U.S. citizen or own the land he’d worked for years, through the confidence earned from playing the game she loved, Maria learns to speak up and make a difference in her world.

This book is an important introduction to the inequalities and discrimination faced by specific immigrant groups, many of which still go on today. Readers are also given insight into the world of adha-adha “half and half,” (Mexican-Hindu families) which also serves to educate. It should be in every elementary and middle school library, and would make for excellent discussions as part of a book club.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Trail of broken wings” Sejal Badani

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. Lake Union Pub. 2015.

TrailOfBrokenWingsShortly after they moved to America from India, Brent began beating his pregnant wife Ranee and young daughter Marin. He insisted on perfection in everything, beating Marin for any perceived infraction of his rules. When his wife gave birth to Sonya, who was not the son he wanted, she also learned the feel of his abuse. Shortly thereafter baby Trisha was born, who became his favorite. She witnessed the abuse but didn’t experience it.

Marin escaped the household through an arranged marriage, spending her life as an overachiever, demanding the same of her daughter. Sonya left after her college graduation, her career spanning the globe as she shied away from any type of commitment. Six years later Sonya reluctantly returned to her childhood home after Brent falls into an unexpected coma. There she and Marin are finally forced to face what they’d hidden from themselves and others. As Trisha begins to experience strange dreams, previously hidden family secrets begin to be revealed. Soon, the foundation upon which all of them had built their lives is forever shattered.

Though suffering broken bodies, hearts and dreams, each member of this family found a way to repair their broken wings and fly again. Their individual voices, traumatic experiences and sense of hope reach out to readers who may be experiencing similar circumstances, making this an important read.

Highly recommended for Adults.



“Best friends through eternity” Sylvia McNicoll

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Tundra Books. Hardcover. 182 pp.

BestFriendsThroughEternityPaige is fourteen, adopted by Canadian parents shortly after she was abandoned at an orphanage in China. As a result she feels as if something is missing from her life, coping with her insecurities by shunning affection and anything Chinese.

One snowy Monday the girl’s volleyball team decides to beat her and her best friend Jasmine up in retaliation for something they believe Jasmine did to a teammate. In order to avoid the route where she knows they’ll be waiting, Paige takes a shortcut along the train tracks – even though it means Jasmine will be left alone with them. Oblivious to the world around her due to the loud music on her iPod Paige doesn’t hear the train’s warning horn and is hit, leaving her in an irreversible coma.

From there Paige is given the gift of a week to return to her old life and right the wrong she did to Jasmine, with the caveat being she can’t let anyone know she will die. Paige’s new life takes many twists and turns as she desperately tries to help Jasmine, finding unexpected results from her last, fate filled week.

I was very upset the volleyball team got away with very serious bullying, as some of their antics could have gotten the girls killed yet no adult noticed. On the other hand I was pleased to see Paige’s transformation, as it could encourage some readers to rethink their own lives in a positive manner. I also liked the cover.

Recommended for ages 11-14.

“The Girl” Madhuri Blaylock

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. (Also available in paperback). 2014. The Sanctum, book #1. Lucy Publishing (Amazon Digital Services.)

TheGirlDev is half demon and half angel, and has been living in India while training to be a warrior. For years her parents have been in hiding from The Sanctum, a group of families called The Circle of Ten, who believe Dev will destroy their way of life. They have ordered Dev be killed on sight and, when they succeed in killing her family, Dev vows revenge on all Sanctum.

The Clayworth family is in charge of The Sanctum’s New York Academy where Wyatt, his sister Jools and his best friend Ryker learned their warrior skills. Wyatt and Ryker hold opposing views of the role The Sanctum plays in their lives. The gods created The Sanctum to protect humans and magicals (trolls, vampires, fairies, etc.), yet their original purpose is long gone because of one founding family’s lust for greed and power. Despite Wyatt’s and Ryker’s differences of opinion in what The Sanctum means to each other and to society, they are inseparable in their love and friendship for each other.

When Wyatt stumbles upon Dev after she escaped The Sanctum’s attack, their lives are forever changed. Little do they know the love they feel for each other, and the invisible bond that ties them together, will lead them onto paths neither had ever expected to travel. It is only a matter of time until they change the lives of all they hold dear.

I received this book to review from the Diverse Book Tours blog, and was a little leery since it was self-published. Readers of my blog know how squeamish I get around self-published books. However I am happy to report there were relatively few grammatical errors and, despite having many similarities to Cassandra Clare’s “Infernal Devices” series, the storyline was very interesting. I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next to Dev and Wyatt, as their star crossed lives seemed destined for heartache from the beginning.

In addition “The Girl” developed strong female characters through the persons of Dev, Jools and the vampire Darby showing them as well trained fighters who remained one hundred percent female and were not dependent on a man to complete their lives.

I was not happy with the title of the book, as Dev is not a girl. She is a strong, independent woman and I wanted a title which reflected that image. I also didn’t like the cover, as I would have preferred to see a photo of Dev, Jools and Darby in action ready to show readers all that a woman can be. I look forward to reading part 2 of the series “The Boy.” 

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“No longer a Slumdog: Bringing hope to children in crisis” K.P. Yohannan

Rated 3 stars *** 2011. GFA Books. 166 p. (Includes an FAQ section, “Believe it or Not” statistics and “Notes.”)

NoLongerASlumdogDrawing comparisons between the poverty of children seen in the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” and their own real life experiences, author Yohannan takes readers through the caste system of India which causes extreme distress to be the lot of the Dalit (Untouchables), members of the lowest rung of India’s social system. His focus in writing this book is to describe the life of the impoverished children from this caste, and to tell how they found help through a relief agency he founded called Gospel for Asia. As these children tell their personal stories of homelessness, poverty, prostitution, discrimination and murder, it is difficult to maintain a dry eye in the face of their pain and sadness.

“No longer a Slumdog” incorporates statistics telling of the number of Dalit children sold into slavery, prostitution or forced to live their lives in the streets, as well as their personal stories, to reach its readers. The 60,000 children they have helped over the past 35 years through giving them food, clothing, schooling and education have been saved from their former street lives, and are no longer slumdogs, yet remain a drop in the bucket compared to the millions more Dalit children which still remain to be rescued from their lives of poverty and discrimination.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Born Confused” Tanuja Desai Hidier

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. ARC. Published April 29, 2014. Push (Scholastic Inc.) (First published in the U.K. in 2002.)

BornConfusedDimple Lala is turning seventeen. Despite being born in New Jersey, being Indian always seemed to get in the way of feeling American and “normal.” Dimple feels fat, and thinks she’s not Indian enough and not American enough. She is shy next to her slim, blond and outgoing BFF, and has always let Gwyn take the lead in her life. The only time she feels unique and herself is when she’s taking photographs and developing her photos.

Her parents’ customs and way of dress annoy her. With confusion about her cultural identity blinding her to reason Dimple is determined to undermine her parents in their attempt to arrange a date with Karsh, a “suitable” Indian boy.

Within a short time Gwyn becomes enamored, and tries to become Indian in an attempt to woo him. The saris and Indian jewelry Dimple has always refused to wear look better on Gwyn and, as Dimple watches Karsh and Gwyn slipping away, her search for meaning in her life deepens.

Alone, adrift and forced to look within, Dimple’s thoughts slowly morph into rediscovery, love and introspection. With loss comes gain, as sadness and confusion lead to happiness and clarity.

The many Indian words, terms and customs would have been better deciphered if a glossary had accompanied the book, but Dimple’s story will resound with readers caught between two worlds; their “new” American world and the “old” world of their ancestry.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.



“A Beautiful Lie” Irfan Master

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). First published in the UK in 2011. American edition published September 1, 2012. Albert Whitman & Company. 302 pp. (Includes Glossary, Maps of India before and after the Partition, and Author’s Historical Notes).

In 1947, India was partitioned off by the British to form Pakistan and East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh). The choice of dividing the country on the basis of religion caused tremendous upheaval. Bitter infighting arose amongst the previously unbiased Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Suddenly India was no longer united but divided by religion, with over 1 million people losing their lives to the violence of the time.

We are brought into this world of change in “A Beautiful Lie.” Bilal’s father is dying, and he doesn’t want his father to know the problems being faced by his beloved India. Partition is coming, but Bilal hopes if his father is kept ignorant of the news, he will die peacefully and not from a broken heart. He plans to lie about what is going on in the village and the world to make sure this happens.

To help him in his lie, Bilal enlists the aid of his three best friends. They are all from different religions but work together to keep Bilal’s secret. Despite the antagonism arising in the village for those of different religions, Bilal and his friends stay close and loving towards each other. As the Day of Partition approaches, the unease in the village escalates into mob violence, with Bilal and his friends caught in the middle. Both he and his father love India and wish her to remain the same, but Change has come and there’s nothing anyone can do to stem the tide of violence.

“A Beautiful Lie” does a very good job explaining what was going on both in the minds of those wanting India to stay the same, and those wanting Change. Middle school students will learn much from Bilal’s story.