This debut novel was the winner of the 2017 Times/Chicken House children’s fiction competition. It’s an adventure for top primary school children that offers an attractive mix of social realism and cultural fantasy and is set in the northern Punjab, close to the Himalayas and the source of the Ganges, where the author’s own family has its Indian roots. Young Asha, facing the possibility of losing her village home, sets off to find her father in the distant city where he has gone to work in a textile factory. She has only a month until the debt collector returns for the final time and on the journey with her friend Jeevan, she faces setbacks and dangers that she overcomes with courage and ingenuity, and with the help of the spirit of her maternal grandmother, Nanijee, in the form of a lamagaia, or bearded vulture. For readers unfamiliar with the story’s setting, it introduces aspects of everyday life in the Punjab, including a glossary of Hindi and Punjabi words, and also cultural and spiritual beliefs and practices, including the reverence for ancestors and a pilgrimage to the temple at the source of the Ganges. It also tackles some headline social issues. Towards the end of the novel, Asha and Jeevan are kidnapped and forced to work with other children picking metal on a vast rubbish tip in the city; and they discover, too, that the factory where Asha’s father was working has been destroyed in a fire. There’s perhaps a little too much going on, which is maybe not surprising in a first novel. Asha’s strength of character is unnecessarily underlined at times. And the neat ending will possibly not come as too much of a surprise. Nevertheless, it’s a story that engages and thrills.
http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png 0 0 Ellie http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png Ellie2019-03-01 16:06:182021-03-22 16:07:43Asha and the Spirit Bird