by Supriya Kelkar (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

In 1942, when Mahatma Gandhi asks Indians to give one family member to the freedom movement, ten-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life for the freedom struggle.

But it turns out he isn't the one joining. Anjali's mother is. And with this change comes many more adjustments designed to improve their country and use "ahimsa"--non-violent resistance--to stand up to the British government. First the family must trade in their fine foreign-made clothes for homespun cotton, so Anjali has to give up her prettiest belongings. Then her mother decides to reach out to the Dalit community, the "untouchables" of society. Anjali is forced to get over her past prejudices as her family becomes increasingly involved in the movement.

When Anjali's mother is jailed, Anjali must step out of her comfort zone to take over her mother's work, ensuring that her little part of the independence movement is completed.

Inspired by her great-grandmother's experience working with Gandhi, New Visions Award winner Supriya Kelkar shines a light on the Indian freedom movement in this poignant debut.

Select format:

Publishers Weekly

Set in a fictional Hindi-speaking Indian town in 1942, Kelkar's debut is inspired by the life of her great-grandmother, who was active in the Indian independence movement led by Gandhi. The novel smoothly and realistically depicts the complex segregated world of India in those years, including characters from different castes. Told from the point of view of 10-year-old Anjali Joshi, a high-born Brahmin, the story traces the development of the nonviolence (Ahimsa in Hindi) movement and the Hindu-Muslim conflicts that arose at the time, along with the effects of both on one community and, especially, on Anjali's family. When Anjali's mother becomes a nonviolent activist fighting for Indian independence and social justice among the castes, Anjali--who is initially horrified by the her mother's actions--gets swept up in the causes, focusing especially on treating the untouchables, whom she learns to call Dalits, as equals. Kelkar builds compelling tension, which leads to grim outcomes, while highlighting Anjali's resulting bravery and maturity. An author's note provides historical background, and a glossary of Hindi words is included. Ages 8-12. Agent: Kathleen Rushall, Andrea Brown Literary. (Oct.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-6--Ten-year-old Anjali's comfortable life changes dramatically when her parents decide to honor Mahatma Gandhi's request that every Indian family give one member to the fight for freedom from British rule. Anjali's mother takes the active role, first learning to spin cotton on the charkha in order to make khadi, or homespun clothes, and teaching others to do the same. Her aspirations expand to helping the Dalit community, referred to with the pejorative "untouchables" by most in the town. It is Anjali's observation that the Dalit children in their town should be able to go to school, and Ma is determined to make that happen. The road ahead is not smooth, as violence breaks out between Hindus and Muslims in their town and across the country, and Ma and other freedom fighters are jailed unjustly for their efforts, though they follow the principles of "ahimsa," or nonviolent resistance. Anjali continues her mother's crusade to integrate their school, knowing that before she can change others' beliefs, she must first change her own. Inspired by the author's great-grandmother, this well-written, accessible middle grade debut is powered by strong, fully developed characters who make mistakes and learn over the course of the story. Anjali and Ma in particular, though well-intentioned, are guilty of several missteps, which make them even more realistic and relatable to readers. They learn that change is not easy or straightforward, and Anjali especially learns how important it is to recognize and confront inequality. VERDICT A historical, timely, and informative story that is full of heart and belongs in most library collections.--Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Tu Books
Publication date
October 20, 2017
BISAC categories
JUV039000 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | General
JUV014000 - Juvenile Fiction | Girls & Women
JUV016030 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | Asia
JUV030020 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Asia
Library of Congress categories

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!