Balzer + Bray, 2010
Back cover copy:For eleven-year-old Gopal and his family, life in their rural Indian village is over: We stay, we starve, his baba has warned. So they must flee to the big city of Mumbai in hopes of finding work and a brighter future. Gopal is eager to help support his struggling family, so when a stranger approaches him with the promise of a factory job, he jumps at the offer.
But there is no factory, just a small, stuffy sweatshop, where he and five other boys are forced to make beaded frames for no money and little food. The boys are forbidden to talk or even to call one another by their real names. Locked away in a rundown building, Gopal despairs of ever seeing his family again.
But late one night, when Gopal decides to share kahanis, or stories, he realizes that storytelling might be the boys' key to survival. If he can make them feel more like brothers than enemies, their lives will be more bearable in the shop—and they might even find a way to escape.
My take:I couldn’t put this book down because I had to find out what happen to Gopal and the other boys. Although some reviewers have described this book as slow-paced, I was fascinated by all the details of Gopal’s life in India and I felt they really made the story come alive. It was hard to read this story, because I grew so emotionally attached to Gopal and was angry about how he and the other boys were treated.
I enjoyed reading the author’s notes about the research she did about child labour. This novel opens up many opportunities for discussion about fairness, child labour, peer groups and the power of community and sharing personal stories. As a writer, I admired the way this author was so careful to show the story from Gopal’s perspective, using dialogue and thoughts that stayed true to the main character.
How I discovered this book: I spotted it on the shelf of a library branch I don’t often visit. I’m glad I found this author, because now I’ll look for her other books!
Other info:Kashmira Sheth was born in Bhavangar, India and moved to the U.S. at attend college when she was 17.
Before she became a writer, she worked as food microbiologist testing milk, cheese, ice cream and other food products for bacterial counts and pathogens. She has also run a dance school.Kashmira Sheth compares writing to dancing: “When I write the first draft of a novel, I have the basic dance, but I need to master each movement.”
Other books by this author:
Boys Without Names
Keeping Corner (YA)
Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet (YA)
Monsoon Afternoon (picture book)
My Dadima Wears A Sari (picture book)