Rickshaw Girl, written by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2007) was one of the first children’s books by a desi author that I picked up to read at my local library back in 2007-2008. I loved it so much that when Mitali Bose Perkins came to participate as faculty at my local SCBWI conference, I couldn’t wait to meet her in-person. She was brilliant! Fast forward many years later, it’s beautiful to see this book as a movie streaming on Prime! Congratulations to Mitali, and thank you to her for writing Naima’s big, beautiful heart! I gifted a copy of the book to Sidhanth Srinivasan (age 9). He read the book overnight and wrote a book report the next morning.
Here it is for you:
Title: Rickshaw Girl
*This book is about a girl named Naima who tries to find a job so she can fix her father’s rickshaw. Naima is a girl who lives with her younger sister Rashida and their two parents.
It all starts when Naima is doing chores for her parents. Her mother makes sure that she did the chores well and clean. After Naima has finished her chores, she goes outside to work on her alpana ( rice art) . Naima is very good at alpanas and hopes to win the alpana contest this year. While making alpanas, her father comes back from work as a rickshaw driver and talks to Naima’s mom. Naima hears them talking about how they need to earn more money to pay off the debt for the rickshaw. Naima is worried that they may lose their rickshaw by not paying off the debt for it. She also hears them talking about how they wished Naima was a boy so she could work and help her father not work all the time. They also say that Naima’s alpanas are not going to help bring money so they can pay off the debt for the rickshaw. Hearing this, Naima is devastated and erases her alpana drawing for the contest.
She then sees her friend Saleem come by and asks him how to earn money for paying off her father’s debt. He says that girls just work for their mother and boys work for their father. As much as Naima knows this, she is determined to help her father, and she comes up with an idea. If she disguises herself as a boy, she could earn money by driving her father’s rickshaw. She decides to drive her father’s rickshaw. But when she starts riding downhill, she crashes the rickshaw. Evidently her parents aren’t happy to see their rickshaw crashed. Naima’s parents decide to take the broken rickshaw to a rickshaw repair shop. Naima is unhappy and doesn’t talk to her friend Saleem. On the day of the alpana contest, Naima doesn’t even make an alpana. The prize goes to someone else.
Later that day her father tells Naima’s mom that he did not make enough money to fix the rickshaw. So Naima’s mother gives one of her bangles to her father so they could trade it and get the rickshaw fixed. Naima visits the repair shop and asks the owner if she could help with making the panels for her dad’s rickshaw. The lady says yes and they get to work. When Naima’s dad visits the repair shop, he sees Naima and is mad at her until the owner says, “Look at your daughter’s work! She did a very good job”. The owner also says, “ I will let you use my rickshaw but Naima will have to work for me and if she is a good worker, I may even pay her.” Hearing this Naima’s dad agrees to the deal. In the end Naima realizes that being a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.
I think the theme of this book is you can do anything if you try your best. One big trait Naima shows is grit. Even when her ideas don’t work, she keeps trying because she wants to help her father. You should read this book because it shows how when things push you back you have to try and step forward. You should also read this book because it tells how things were back in the days when women did not have rights and how Naima realizes that it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl you can still do anything. Thank you for reading my book report about the Rickshaw Girl.