"Readers will be captivated by this beautifully written novel about young people who must use their instincts and grit to survive. Padma infuses her story with hope and bravery that will inspire readers."--Aisha Saeed, author of the New York Times Bestseller Amal Unbound
Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman's stirring middle-grade debut.
Life is harsh on the teeming streets of Chennai, India, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter--and friendship--on an abandoned bridge that's also the hideout of Muthi and Arul, two homeless boys, and the four of them soon form a family of sorts. And while making their living scavenging the city's trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to take pride in, too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.
Padma Venkatraman was born in Chennai, India, and became an American citizen after living in five countries and working as an oceanographer. She is also the author of A Time to Dance
(IBBY selection, ALA Notable, Notable Books for a Global Society, and New York Public Library Best Book), Island's End
(ALA Best Book for Young Adults, CCBC Choice, and South Asia Book Award winner), and Climbing the Stairs
(Bank Street Best Book, ALA/Amelia Bloomer List, YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, and Julia Ward Howe Award winner).
“Venkatraman’s middle-grade debut tackles sisterhood, chosen families, and loss. . . . Viji’s narration is vivid and sensory. . . . The novel also touches on social justice issues such as caste, child labor, and poverty elegantly, without sacrificing narrative. A blisteringly beautiful book.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review*
"Exquisitely narrated novel set in Chennai, India. . . . Venkatraman vividly sketches the group’s precarious economic situation. . . . This is a poignant portrait of love, sacrifice, and chosen family in the midst of poverty.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review*
“The four individual children and their tightknit relationship are portrayed with conviction and finesse. Written in the form of a letter from Viji to her sister, the affecting narrative transports readers to a faraway setting that becomes vivid and real. While the young characters face unusually difficult challenges, together they find the courage they need to move forward. The author of A Time to Dance
, Venkatraman offers an absorbing novel of love, loss, and resilience.”—Booklist, starred review*
“In her stellar middle grade debut, Venkatraman brings compassionate attention to the plight of India’s homeless children. . . . Venkatraman’s depiction of the streets of Chennai is a sensory experience. Her elegant prose tells a heartfelt, wholly captivating story while encouraging readers to consider larger issues including religion, poverty, and the caste system. An unforgettable tale of families lost, found, and moving ahead without leaving those they love behind.”—School Library Journal, starred review*
"Hopeful yet heartbreaking. . . . Venkatraman weaves a breathtaking story which takes the reader to the streets of India, where millions of homeless children fight to survive each day. . . . It is a story that must be told, and Venkatraman does a beautiful job describing everyday life and showing that a 'home' and 'family' doesn’t always correspond to a house with a white picket fence. This is a story that must be shared."—School Library connection, starred review
“An author’s note attests to the reality of all of the situations described in the book as having been drawn from first-person accounts; the tenderness of Viji’s love for her sister and her new ‘brothers’ will break hearts and inspire activist longings.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Readers will be captivated by the message of love and the true meaning of home and family. The book demonstrates how people, even if they are not related, can form a family.”—Voice of Youth Advocates