Category Archives: South Asia Book

Step Up To The Plate, Maria Singh

It is 1945, and with World War II going on, fifth-grader Maria Singh wants to play baseball.  When her teacher starts an all-girls team at her school, Maria is thrilled.  However she meets many challenges. Her father from India doesn’t want her wearing shorts.  Her mother form Mexico wants her to stay home to watch her younger brother.  Maria also wants to work to get the city council to approve a baseball field for her neighborhood.  And because her father isn’t a U.S. citizen, he can’t own their farm and the family is in danger of losing it.  As she learns about teamwork and baseball, she also learns about prejudice and racism in her community.  And most importantly, she learns to speak up and make a difference in her world.  This well-written, fascinating book, that covers a lot of social history, has great potential for the classroom.  mjw
Title: Step Up To The Plate, Maria Singh
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Publisher
: Tu Books, an imprint of Lee and Low Books.  New York
Copyright
: 2017
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1-600602-61-0
Hardcover pages
: 288
Age range
: 9-12
Genre
: Historical fiction
Book setting
: California
Author’s ethnicity
: born in New Delhi
Author’s residence
: Victoria, British Columbia
Awards
: 018 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
:East Indian Americans, Farm life, Mexican Americans, Prejudice, Racially mixed people, Racism, Sexism, Softball, World War II

Pashmina

Pryanka is a teenage girl whose mother emigrated from India years ago, leaving Pri’s father behind. After finding a magical pashmina, Pri travels to India to learn more about her family and her culture.  She is greeted by an elephant and a peacock, that show her around the country.  This story of self-discovery is heartwarming, inspiring, funny, and thought-provoking. Most of the artwork is black and white with thick lines, but whenever someone wears the pashmina, the pages become full-colored. mjw
Title: Pashmina
Author: Nidhi Chanani
Illustrator
: Nidhi Chanani
Publisher
: First Second, an imprint of Roaring Book Press
Copyright
: 2017
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1-62672-087-9
Paperback pages
: 176
Age range
: 10-14
Genre
: Fiction, Graphic novel, Fantasy
Book setting
: U.S.
Author’s ethnicity
: born in Kolkata, India
Author’s residence
: San Francisco, U.S.
Illustrator’s ethnicity
: born in Kolkata, India
Illustrator’s residence
: San Francisco, U.S.
Awards
: 2018 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Asia, Cashmere shawls, Comics, Culture, East Indian Americans, Heritage, Magic realism, Mothers and daughters, Self-discovery, Teenage girls

Outside In

Twelve-year-old Ram, who lives on the streets of Chandigarh in northern India, discovers a hidden garden full of sculptures.  He follows a man on a bicycle who seems to be collecting rocks and cast off materials. The man, Nek Chand, uses scraps of metal, bike tires, broken glass and dishes, old rags – junk according to Ram – to create a secret world of thousands of odd statues.  Ram and Nek become friends and learn how the story of the Ramayana parallels their story.  This heartwarming book was inspired by the true story of the famous Indian artist who was displaced from his home after Partition and illegally built an entire village in Chandigarh.  Today, Nek Chand’s Rock Garden is the second most visited site in India, after the Taj Mahal.  A glossary of Indian terms and an author’s note are included.  mjw
Title: Outside In
Author: Jennifer Bradbury
Publisher
: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.  New York
Copyright
: 2017
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1-4424-6827-6
Hardcover pages
: 288
Age range
: 8-12
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Chandigarh, India
Author’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Author’s residence
: U.S., taught in Chandigarh
Awards: 2018 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Architecture, Asian, Chandigarh, Fables, Hindu, Homelessness, Legends, Myths, Nek Chand, Orphans, Poverty, Ramayana, Rock gardens, Sculptors

The Bridge Home

Eleven-year-old Viji and her younger sister Rukku who has intellectual and developmental disabilities have run away into the harsh streets of Chennai to get away from their abusive father.  The girls find shelter and friends on an abandoned bridge.  Two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, and the girls survive by scavenging the city’s garbage heaps and by selling the bead necklaces that Rukku makes.  The four bond into a family of sorts.  They are often hungry and scared, but they have each other and their dog Kutti. When the rainy season comes, Rukku and Muthi get sick and Viji and Arul have to make decisions about who they can trust to help them.  The courage and strength of the children is an inspiration. mjw
Title: The Bridge Home
Author: Padma Venkatraman
Publisher
: Nancy Paulsen Books
Copyright
: 2019
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1-5247-3811-2
Hardcover pages
: 208
Age range
: 10-12
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Chennai, India
Author’s ethnicity
: Born in Chennai, India
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Awards: 2020 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Asia, Domestic violence, Homelessness, Lower caste children, Runaways, Sisters

The Rumor

Pandurang, a fruit seller in the village of Baddbaddpur, is an ill-tempered, grumpy man who never smiles. One day he coughs up a feather. The story of Panduang’s feather is passed on from one person to another until it is barely recognized. All the villagers come to see the forest, tigers, and birds that supposedly come out of his mouth. Pandurang listens to them and his frown grows lighter and lighter until he finally smiles. Funny, brilliant illustrations complement this version of “broken telephone” by the Indian Dr. Seuss. mjw
Title: The Rumor
Author: Anushka Ravishankar
Illustrator
: Kanyika Kini
Publisher
: Tundra Books. Toronto, Canada
Copyright
: 2012
Original Title
: The Rumour
Original Publisher
: Karadi Tales Company Pvt. Ltd. India
Original Copyright
: 2009
ISBN
: 978-1-77049-280-6
Hardcover pages
: 32
Age range
: 4-7
Genre
: Picture Book
Book setting
: India
Author’s ethnicity
: Indian
Author’s residence
: India
Illustrator’s ethnicity
: Indian
Illustrator’s residence
: Munich
Awards
: 2013 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Fairytales, Folktales, Myths

One Half From The East

Ten-year-old Obayda’s father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion and the family is in need of some good fortune. They move from Kabul to s small village. Obayda is dressed as a boy, a bacha posh. This is a longstanding tradition in Afghanistan. Families without a son designate a preteen daughter to fill the void with a simple physical transformation involving swapping clothes and cutting hair. Before she reaches puberty, she is changed back and resumes life as a girl, a gender that enjoys far less freedom and privilege. Obayda becomes Obayd and everything changes. She meets Rashim, another bacha posh. They become friends, explore the village, and play sports, but there is no forever as a bacha posh. This heart-stirring and enlightening coming-of-age story includes an author’s note. mjw
Title: One Half From The East
Author: Nadia Hashimi
Publisher
: Harper Collins Publishers
Copyright
: 2016
Original Language
: English 
ISBN
: 978-0-06-242190-6
Hardcover pages
: 272
Age range
: 8-12
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Afghanistan
Author’s ethnicity
: Afghan
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Awards
: 2017 South Asia Book Award Highly Commended
Subjects
: Bacha posh, Child marriage, Gender, Prejudice and racism, Self-esteem and self-reliance

What Elephants Know

Young Nandu was abandoned in the Nepalese Borderlands and raised by a pack of dhole, Asiatic wild dogs, much like Mowgli in The Jungle Book, until he was brought to the king’s elephant stable. There, Subba-sahib, the stable head, and Devi Kali, a protective female elephant become his new “parents.” Nandu wants to be a mahout, an elephant driver. He goes to boarding school where his teacher, Father Autry, becomes his mentor. When the elephant stable is to be closed, Nandu works to save it. This beautiful coming-of-age story includes rich detail about the culture of Nepal and a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. A glossary helps with the Nepalese words and common elephant commands. Maps adorn the endpapers. The book “dedicated to elephant lovers everywhere” was written by a world-class scientist specializing in the ecology of the Himalayan region. mjw
Title: What Elephants Know
Author: Eric Dinerstein
Publisher
: Disney Hyperion
Copyright
: 2016
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1484728543
Hardcover pages
: 288
Age range
: 9-12
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Nepal
Author’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Awards
: 2017 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Elephants, India, Jungles, Nepal history 20th century, Orphans

Dear Mrs. Naidu

dear-mrs-naiduSpunky twelve-year-old Sarojini lives in Bangalore with her mother, who works in rich people’s houses. They struggle to make ends meet. Her best friend Amir has moved from their poor government school to a posh private school and Sarojini worries that she has lost her friend. She learns about the Right to Education law and becomes determined to improve her school. She gets help from feisty Deepti, a classmate; Vimala Madam, a human rights lawyer who might also be an evil genius; and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, a long-dead freedom fighter and poet. Told through letters written to Mrs. Naidu, this is Sarojini’s life-changing journey, where she learns about justice and important education issues in India. The book concludes with a note about the real Sarojini Naidu and a list of organizations working for child rights. mjw
Title: Dear Mrs. Naidu
Author: Mathangi Subramanian
Publisher
: Zubaan Publishers Pvt Ltd. New Delhi
Copyright
: 2015
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-93-83074-98-3 
Paperback pages
: 286
Age range
: 12 up
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Bangalore, India
Author’s residence
: New Delhi, Delhi, India
Awards
: 2016 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Education, Friendship, Human rights, Law, Right to Education

Same, Same But Different

same same butElliot lives in America and Kailish lives in India. They exchange drawings and notes as part of a Picture Pals project in their schools. The boys compare families, pets, cities, alphabets, and art and yoga classes, and discover that they are best friends even though they live in two different worlds. Or do they? “Different, different but the same!” The colorful, detailed and vivid art, rendered in acrylic, crayon, pencil, collage, and tissue paper, illustrates the differences and similarities between the boys’ homes. Stamps on the endpapers are whimsical and fun. In this age of instant access through the Internet, students can see a different way to communicate. The author/illustrator traveled to Nepal and India where she learned the popular saying “same, same but different” that is used to compare cultures. mjw
Title: Same, Same But Different
Author: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Illustrator
: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Publisher
: Henry Holt and Company, New York
Copyright
: 2011
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-0-8050-8946-2
Hardcover pages
: 40
Age range
: 4-7
Genre
: Picture Book
Book setting
: U.S. and India
Author’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Illustrator’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Illustrator’s residence
: U.S.
Awards
: 2012 South Asia Book Award, 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award
Subjects
: Alphabet, Friendship, Pen pals

The Secret Sky: A Novel Of Forbidden Love In Afghanistan

secret skyThis modern Romeo and Juliet story of sorts, set in Afghanistan, is narrated by three of the main characters. Samiullah, a Pashtun boy, and Fatima, a Hazara girl, are two innocent teenagers who fall in love. Their ethnic groups differ and do not get along because of their historical backgrounds. Their desire to get married disgraces their families and sets a series of horrific events in motion. The third narrator is Samiullah’s cousin Rashid, the villain, who has fallen under the influence of the Taliban. He has seen Samiullah and Fatima together, assumes the worst, and turns them in to the local Taliban. Disturbing depictions of physical, emotional, and sexual violence against men, women, and children; amazing acts of kindness, bravery, and sacrifice; vivid imagery; complex characters; and a suspenseful ending make the book unputdownable. Though fictional, this powerful and hopeful love story paints a realistic picture of the conflicts and culture clashes in Afghanistan today. The author was a foreign news correspondent in Kabul for nearly five years. mjw
Title: The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love In Afghanistan
Author: Atia Abawi
Publisher
: Philomel Books, Penguin Young Readers Group
Copyright
: 2014
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-0-399-16078-3
Hardcover pages
: 320
Age range
: 14 up
Genre
: Fiction
Book setting
: Afghanistan
Author’s ethnicity
: Afghani
Author’s residence
: Jerusalem
Awards
: 2015 South Asia Book Award – Highly Commended, 2015 Amelia Bloomer List
Subjects
: Conflict, Culture, Ethnic relations, Family relations, Hazaras, Love, Marriage, Pushtuns, Social justice, Talibans

Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus And The Village Bank

22 centsMuhammad Yunis grew up in India in the 1940s in a family that cared for and wanted to help others. He witnessed extreme poverty. He studied economics in America, and when he returned to his homeland (which became Bangladesh), as an economics professor, he founded Grameen Bank where people could borrow small amounts of money to start a job, and then pay back the bank without unfairly high interest charges. Over the next years, he was responsible for loaning more than 10 billion U.S. dollars in micro-credit, and empowering the poor, especially women, to break the cycle of poverty. Yunus would become renowned as the Banker to the Poor. Accurate and authentic soft chalk pastels enhance this true story. Back matter includes an Afterword with information on poverty in America, an update on Yunus’s life, and photos of him as a young Boy Scout and as a Nobel Prize laureate in 2006. Author’s Sources are also provided. mjw
Title: Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus And The Village Bank
Author: Paula Yoo
Illustrator
: Jamel Akib
Publisher
: Lee & Low Books, New York
Copyright
: 2014
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1-60060-658-8
Hardcover pages
: 40
Age range
: 6-11
Genre
: Picture book, Biography
Book setting
: India and Bangladesh
Author’s ethnicity
: Korean-American
Author’s residence
: U.S.
Illustrator’s ethnicity
: English and Malaysian
Illustrator’s residence
: England
Awards
: 2015 South Asia Book Award, 2015 IRA Notable Books for a Global Society
Subjects
: Bangladesh, Bankers, Economics, Economists, Generosity, Microcredit, Microfinance, Nobel Peace Prize 2006, Social activists, Social justice

A Moment Comes

a moment comesSet preceding the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan, this story of turmoil and politics is told from the alternating points of view of three very different narrators. Margaret is a privileged British girl, living in India because her father is one of the cartographers finalizing the borders that will divide the country into two separate religious states. She is spoiled and finds India hot, loud, and dangerous, but is enthralled by the culture. Anupreet, a beautiful Sikh girl, once confined to her home to protect her from violent angry men, is employed as a maid for Margaret’s family, where her family believes she will be safe. Eighteen-year-old Tariq, a Muslim, hired as a translator for Margaret’s father, is caught between his forbidden interest in Anupreet and Margaret, who might be able to help with his goal of studying at Oxford. It is a dark and violent time, when no one is safe. Ultimately, 10 to 14 million people in India relocated and over one million died as a result. The time of Partition is underexplored in Western literature, especially in young adult historical fiction. A Glossary defines words used in the book and also mentions places and foods.   An Author’s Note offers even more information and details Bradbury’s connection to India. mjw
Title: A Moment Comes
Author: Jennifer Bradbury
Publisher
: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster, New York
Copyright
: 2013
Original Language
: English
ISBN
: 978-1-4169-7876-3
Hardcover pages
: 288
Age range
: 12 up
Genre
: Historical fiction
Book setting
: Jalandhar, India
Author’s ethnicity
: U.S.
Author’s residence
: U.S.  Author has lived in India.
Awards: 2014 South Asia Book Award
Subjects
: Culture, Household employees, India, Muslims, Pakistan, Partition 1947, Punjabi, Radcliffe Line, Sikhs, Tolerance