MEET. YASMIN!by Saadia Faruqi, art by Hatem Aly, published by Picture Window Books and available in August 2018.
For the youngest MG readers, Pakistani-American Yasmin is going to be a real treat. She is a spunky, curious second grader with a fairly typical round of family and school-centric adventures. Her mother and grandmother are hijabis. She is not—as is common (but not universal) among Pakistani girls of this age. I appreciated the inclusion of live-in grandparents, including a grandfather in a wheelchair. The text of the story never mentions Yasmin’s ethnicity as an obstacle. The end notes contain some information about Pakistan, a short glossary of words in Urdu, a recipe for lassi and a craft suggestion. Large text, generous leading, and lively illustrations on every page make this a great choice for new readers. Saadia Faruqi has written short stories and essays for adults. This is her debut children’s book. Hatem Aly is the illustrator of the Newbery Honor winning Inquisitor’s Tale
RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD by Jess Butterworth, published by Algonquin Young Readers and available May 2018.
Here is a refugee story, an adventure story, a survival story and a mystery all in one. Most MG readers will have at least heard of the Dalai Lama but they are probably less familiar with the migration of thousands of Tibetan Buddhists over the Himalayas to India. Sam and Tash are two such refugees who flee to India when Tash’s parents are arrested for participating in the resistance to Chinese rule. They bring yaks on their journey. Twelve year old me would have read it just for the yaks. This one is on the easier end of the reading scale and it handles the brutality of the political situation in Tibet with a light touch—neither denying the violence nor giving it undue detail. I wish there was a map but otherwise this is a gem of book. It’s Jess Butterwoth’s debut novel.
Contemporary indentured servitude is far more common world wide than any government is willing to admit. It is hardly ever a topic of fiction even for adults, but Aisha Saeed has done a nice job of taking a topic full of brutality and monstrous injustice and fashioned it into a story that will arouse a readers conscience and compassion on the topic of slavery without crushing their spirit with to much brutal detail. Amal is a book-loving girl with dreams of higher education who is swept up by a local man who has the power of a feudal lord and made to serve as a maid in his home—an arrangement from which typically no-one returns. Amal is clever enough to get away and readers will rejoice in her escape.
THE NIGHT DIARY by Veera Hiranandani published by Dial Books for Young Readers and available in March of 2018.
Set in 1947 and told in diary entries addressed to her mother who died long ago, Nisha tells the story of how her half-Hindu and half-Muslim family decided to leave their home in response to the partition of India. Nisha is shy and her social circle is quite limited which, along with the diary format, makes this a more cerebral book than the others on this list. It’s an interesting slice of recent history that will likely be new to readers.
ARU SHA AND THE END OF TIME,by Roshani Chokshi published by Rick Riorden Presents and available in May of 2018.
Here’s a story in the Rick Riorden tradition of mythology come to life. Spunky middle school girl takes a dare she shouldn’t have while touring her friends through a museum of Indian-American artifacts. Monsters are unleashed, pluck and cultural savvy are employed, the world is saved. It’s a romp any reader of the Percy Jackson books will love.
THE SERPANT’S SECRET: KIRANMALA & THE KINGDOM BEYOND by Sayantani Dasgupta published by Scholastic and available June of 2018
This is probably my favorite book cover of the year. Love the colors and the girl with her bow and arrows facing down an army of snakes to save New Jersey. I feel like New Jersey is going to be okay. This is another fantasy based in Indian mythology with a sprinkle of romance and dollop of sass. I have some avid mythology readers at the shop and this was their favorite read of the summer
Posts Tagged India
So many books to buy or place on hold at your library this month! Here are a few hand-picked middle-grade titles for your to-read list:
Hide and Seek by Kate Messner
José, Anna, and Henry are junior members of the secret Silver Jaguar Society, sworn to protect the world’s most important artifacts. When they discover that the society’s treasured Jaguar Cup has been replaced with a counterfeit, the trio and their families rush to the rain forests of Costa Rica in search of the real chalice. But when the trail runs dry, new mysteries emerge: Who can they trust? Is there a traitor in their midst? With danger at every turn, it will take more than they realize for José and his friends to recover the cup before it falls into the wrong hands. This is the sequel to Capture the Flag. (April 1.)
All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens by Gloria Whelan
Rosalind inhabits two worlds in 1920s India. There is the world of her heritage—English to the core, with a strict father who is a major in the British Indian Army, a muted mother, and a tutor to educate her within the walls of the luxurious estate her family occupies. And then there is the world of her homeland—or the land that feels like home, anyway. The world where followers of Gandhi surround her, and the streets are full of poverty and the whispers of independence. When she has a chance to meet the Prince of Wales, Rosalind must decide if she has the courage to speak up about the injustice she witnesses in the streets of India. (April 2)
The Key and the Flame by Claire M. Caterer
Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard is given an old iron key that unlocks a door—in a tree—that opens to the stunning and magical medieval world of Anglielle. Holly is joined on her journey by two tagalongs—her younger brother Ben, and Everett, an English boy who hungers after Holly’s newfound magic and carries a few secrets of his own. When Ben and Everett are sentenced to death by the royals, whose fear of magic has fueled a violent, systemic slaughter of all enchanted creatures, Holly must save them and find a way back home. But will she be able to muster the courage and rise above her ordinary past to become an extraordinary hero? (April 2)
The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley
Things aren’t looking good for fourteen-year-old Mehrigul. She yearns to be in school, but she’s needed on the family farm. The longer she’s out of school, the more likely it is that she’ll be sent off to a Chinese factory . . . perhaps never to return. Her only hope is an American woman who buys one of her decorative vine baskets for a staggering sum and says she will return in three weeks for more. Mehrigul must brave terrible storms, torn-up hands from working the fields, and her father’s scorn to get the baskets done. The stakes are high, and time is passing. An intergenerational story of a strong, creative young artist in a cruelly oppressive society. (April 2)
The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors
When Ben Silverstein is sent to the rundown town of Buttonville to spend the summer with his grandfather, he’s certain it will be the most boring vacation ever. That is, until his grandfather’s cat brings home what looks like . . . a baby dragon?
Ben takes the wounded dragon to the only veterinarian’s office in town: Dr. Woo’s Worm Hospital. But as Ben and his friend Pearl discover once they are inside, Dr. Woo’s isn’t a worm hospital at all — it’s actually a secret hospital for imaginary creatures, and now it seems a rather large, rather stinky, and very hairy beast has escaped from the hospital. (April 2)
Story’s End (Storybound Book #2) by Marissa Burt
Heroes, Villains, and characters of all kinds lived out new Tales filled with daring quests and epic struggles when a King ruled the land of Story long ago. Then the King disappeared, and over the years, nearly everyone forgot that he had ever existed. Now an evil Enemy has emerged, determined to write a new future for Story that he will control. And an ordinary girl named Una Fairchild is inextricably tangled up in his deadly plan. Una and her friends Peter and Indy are desperate to find a way to defeat the Enemy. But Una soon discovers that the real key may lie in her own mysterious ties to Story’s past–and to the long-forgotten King, who could be Story’s only hope for survival. (April 2)
The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff
Thirteen-year old Jemma has no clue about her supernatural powers, let alone that a Prophecy says she is the one who will save her country from the evil Agromond rulers and the sinister Mist they create. Then, some very disturbing discoveries reveal the truth of who she really is, propelling Jemma into dark dangers that she faces with her two telepathic golden rats, and her friend Digby. But in the end, her own untapped powers might be the only hope for a kingdom in peril. Magic, mystery, and mayhem spice this action-packed medieval-flavored fantasy debut. (April 9)
Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change: Rump can spin straw into gold. Magical gold. His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous. With each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse. There’s only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end. (April 9)
Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace by Nan Marino
Eleven-year-old musical prodigy Elvis Ruby was supposed to win Tween Star, the most coveted reality show on television. None of the other contestants even came close to his talents. But in the middle of the biggest night, with millions of people watching, Elvis panicked. He forgot the words to the song. He forgot the tune. He forgot how to play every single instrument he’d ever known and froze on national TV. So Elvis must run from the paparazzi camped outside his door and spend the summer working with his aunt and cousin at Piney Pete’s Pancake Palace in the remote wilds of New Jersey. It’s the perfect place to be anonymous, that is until Elvis meets Cecilia, a girl who can’t seem to help blurting out whatever’s on her mind. (April 16)
Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes
Italy, 1944: Florence is occupied by Nazi forces. The Italian resistance movement has not given up hope, though, and neither have thirteen-year- old Paolo and his sister, Costanza. As their mother is pressured into harboring escaping POWs, Paolo and Costanza each find a part to play in opposing the German forces. Both are desperate to fight the occupation, but what can two siblings, with only a bicycle to help them, do against a whole army? Middle-grade fans of history and adventure will be riveted by the action and the vividly evoked tension of World War II. This is the first novel by Hughes, who has written more than 50 books and has twice won the Kate Greenway award for illustration in Britain.
The Ability by M.M Vaughan
When Christopher begins at his new school, he is astounded at what he can do. It seems that age twelve is a special time for the human brain, which is capable of remarkable feats. Schoolmates Ernest and Mortimer Genver, at the direction of their vengeful and manipulative mother, are testing the boundaries of the human mind. All this experimentation has definite consequences, and Chris soon finds himself forced to face them … or his new life will be over before it can begin. (April 23)
The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson
The last year has been rougher than sandpaper for Abbey Force and her dad. He’s in a coma after his accident a year back, wherein he was framed for a terrible crime he didn’t commit. And their home on the eastern coast of South Carolina had to be sold to pay off his debt. The new family that moved into Abbey’s old house has a daughter named Bee who is just as curious about all the No Trespassing signs and holes being dug out by Felony Bay, in the corner of what used to be Abbey’s home. It appears someone’s been poking around a mystery that dates all the way back to the Civil War—and it just might be the same someone who framed Abbey’s dad. (April 30)
The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You remember them, don’t you? They’re the Princes Charming, who finally got some credit after they stepped out of the shadows of their princesses–Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose–to defeat an evil witch bent on destroying all their kingdoms. But alas, such fame and recognition only last so long. And when the princes discover that an object of great power might fall into any number of wrong hands, they are going to have to once again band together to stop it from happening–even if no one will ever know it was they who did it. (April 30)
Book descriptions courtesy of publishers and IndieBound.