“There are no dancers / on this temple’s walls. / Here, even Shiva / stands still.” page 99
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman.
Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2014.
Novel in verse, 307 pages.
Lexile: 720L .
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 5.0 points) .
Veda is a classical dance prodigy starting out on a glorious career in Bharatanatyam when her leg has to be amputated. But dance is her life and the center of her being. Can she forge a new life? Can dance be part of it?
Pretty sure this is going on my favorite 2017 reads list although the competition will be steep this year. Not what you expected me to say about a novel in verse, right?
My biggest problem with novels in verse is that they are incredibly difficult to balance. I love novels, and I love poetry, but inevitably most novels in verse lose out either in plot or in poetry. This book has ample plot and appropriate narrative arc, while still having generally gorgeous poetry. I’m in awe of how Venkatraman pulled this off, because it is very, very difficult to do.
“I’ve watched Apu at least a dozen times before with Mike and never had this feeling. I never thought it was uproariously funny like some of the kids at school or Mike did, but it never really bothered me either. Or did it, and I just ignored it?” page 127
Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger.
Margaret K. McElderry Imprint, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 2009 (my edition 2010).
YA historical fiction, 247 pages.
Lexile: HL740L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 5.0 (worth 9.0 points)
NOTE: not suggested for elementary school students despite the reading level.
Samar, or Sam has never known much about her Punjabi heritage and never needed to. After her father left, her mom cut all contact with her traditional Indian family. So when her turbaned uncle shows up at the door after 9/11, Sam has no idea who he even is.
This is a coming-of-age young adult debut novel by an #ownvoice author. I purchased this book as soon as I read Shenwei’s review. I work with a number of Sikh and Indian students, and my original thought was to get this for one of my students.
However, after reading, I don’t think it would be suitable for that particular student. She’s still in middle school, very sheltered, and quite devout. I don’t think that the violence would be more than she can handle, but I think the underage drinking would bother her and keep her from getting to the parts more relevant to her life. Perhaps when she is a little older.
The earliest readers need diverse books too! Here’s one appropriate for the beginning reader.
We Can! (also titled If You Can, I Can) by Gay Su Pinnell, illustrated by Barbara Duke.
Scholastic, New York, 2002.
Realistic fiction, 9 pages.
Lexile: BR (What does BR mean in Lexile?)
AR: not leveled
NOTE: Intended for the earliest beginning readers, a later edition is titled If You Can, I Can.
We Can is the sweet story of two non-white brothers, told in extremely simple words with pictures carrying most of the story, for the earliest of pre-readers and beginning readers.
I was delighted to find a nice selection of early readers at a local thrift store. It is incredibly difficult to find a good batch of books at this level in general, let alone culturally appropriate and diverse books, so I quickly sorted through the stack to find any that had diverse characters. At a dollar each, this particular store was a little expensive for pre-readers (most places sell used ones for 50 cents down even as low as 10 cents, especially for used books which have writing and highlighting in them as some of these did), so I wanted to only select those that I might not find elsewhere.
“Most of the homes in the village looked the same, with smooth clay walls, thatched roofs, dirt paths, and large stone thresholds. They only looked different on holidays, when girls decorated their family’s paths and thresholds with painted patterns called alpanas, just as their ancestors had done for generations.” p. 8
Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA, 2007.
Elementary chapter book, 91 pages.
AR Level: 4.3 (worth 1.0 points)
Bangladeshi girl Naima is a gifted painter and a free spirit who spends every moment thinking about her next alpana pattern, until her family experiences a turn of fortune and she desperately wants to help drive her father’s rickshaw, like her best friend Saleem does for his family. But as a girl she can’t even speak to Saleem now that they are older.
This is a library book which I am hoping to use as a read-aloud at school. It crossed my path very randomly but I am starting to get in the habit of noting (and trying to read) any book with clearly non-white characters on the cover. This sometimes pays real dividends as I find new treasures to read and discover new-to-me authors!
“Her skin was all cream and light in comparison to her father’s and very dark when she held her wrist against her mother’s.” p. 35
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
Harper Perennial, HaperCollins, 2012.
Adult fiction, 353 pages plus extras.
New York Times Bestseller
Best book of the year 2011 from ten different news sources
AR Level: 6.7 (worth 21.0 points)
Dr. Marina Singh has no interest in going to Brazil. She’s quite happy sitting in her small windowless lab running pharmacological tests, and her lab partner Anders Eckman was happy to go into the Amazon as long as he could take some side trips to photograph rare and unusual birds. But Marina’s plain, comfortable world shatters when a letter arrives relating his death. The company wants to know what happened, and so does his widow.
This was a free book from the library that I grabbed after forgetting my bag so I couldn’t read Hidden Figures on my break. It was surprisingly gripping! There are so many points to discuss which are major spoilers, but I’m going to limit the spoilers here as much as possible.
There are several areas of diverse lit that I have very little knowledge about. I don’t know much about Islamic books, so I rely on bloggers like Notes From an Islamic School Librarian to point me towards good reads or point out flaws in books that I might not notice. I’m sadly ignorant about indigenous culture, but Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children’s Literature is helping educate all of us about good Native representation in literature.
But until very recently, I didn’t have many ideas about good South Asian books. Enter the new website Kitaabworld (kitaab means book in many languages). They curate books and some other children’s items from South Asian cultures, including bilingual and religious books.
In addition to selling South Asian books right there on their website, they offer a lot of helpful content for the clueless but well-meaning non-South Asian, such as their guide to the best books of 2016.
I had only heard of four books on this list before, although Save Me a Seat was one of my favorite books of 2016. However there are now several I would like to read, including One Half from the East and YA novel Rani Patel in Full Effect. Mirror in the Sky also looks intriguing.
I hope you are also able to find some new reads from this awesome website!