I am in not suggesting that children's literature or cooking shows* can replace knowledge of current events, but it's easier to understand what's happening in a location if you understand what it's like to live there, play there, work there, learn there, and eat there.
I feel like learned more about the Iranian people from reading Persepolis or watching *Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: "Iran" than I gleaned from "news." Similarly, I never truly grasped the standing of females in Saudi Arabia until I read The Green Bicycle, based on the award-winning documentary, Wadjda. In The Green Bicycle, Wadja opens readers' hearts to the everyday struggles of girls in Iran.
In Child of Spring, Basanta will open a door to the lives of children in a small Indian community. You will be glad you passed through.
Child of Spring by Farhana Zia.
March, 2016, Peachtree Publishers.
(Advance Reader Copy)
Basanta lives in a small hut in India. Though only 12-years-old, she, and most of her friends, work. Her best friend, Lali, takes care of siblings while her mother works. The handsome Bala is a jack-of-all-trades - begging, gambling, stealing, or performing. Beautiful and wily, Rukmani makes clay pots. Basanta works at the Big House with her mother - cooking, cleaning, and serving the whims of a wealthy family,
The station tower clock struck seven times. One by one, the residents of my busti ducked out of their huts. Bangles jangled on the women's wrists.. The men puffed on their cheroots and coiled head cloths around their heads.The life is hard, but the bonds of friendship and family within the impoverished busti make life bearable, even enjoyable. Basanta is a good and generally obedient girl, but prone to clever scheming. When she becomes the unlikely possessor of an expensive ring, a plan forms in her mind. In practice, however, it turns out much differently than she expected! Spanning only a few weeks, the story ends on a hopeful note during Divali, The Festival of Lights.
The line at the water tap was already getting long and Rukmani was at the front of it, filling her pretty clay pots. I ducked my head and walked by quietly I didn't want to be peppered with questions about life at the Big House: "How many fluffy pillows on Little Bibi's bead, hanh? How many ribbons for Little Bibi's hair? How many eggs on Little Bibi's breakfast plate? Come, tell me, na?"
Child of Spring is a sometimes predictable story, but its strength lies in the rich cultural detail of life in Basanta's community, and in the joy the residents find in life's small pleasures.
A Glossary of Indian terms and expressions is included.
From the publisher:
F&P (Fountas & Pinnell)
F&P Level: U
F&P Grade: 5
Read an excerpt of Child of Spring here.