Basanta, who splits her time between serving a rich family in her rural Indian town and playing with children less advantaged than she, gives an episodic account of several weeks of her life.
The prologue introduces Basanta’s lack of enthusiasm for her deceased grandmother’s idea that “A song from the heart is more golden than a nicely wrapped gift.” Throughout the story, Basanta grapples with feelings of envy for people in better circumstances, as well as annoyance at her mother’s generous nature. Yet, more than once, she herself shows compassion and even altruism. Basanta is a believable character whose emotions and actions reflect early adolescence in any culture. She is also clearly different from most of her Western counterparts: illiterate, with no formal education, and prone to obsessively arranging doll weddings. Her language is sprinkled with colorful, insightful similes. Unsurprisingly, Basanta’s narration is dotted with Hindi words (often distractingly printed in italic type) and full of character names unfamiliar to readers not of the culture (with the doubtlessly unintentional exception of naughty Paki). It can be difficult to keep track of the many characters, and the plots and subplots are dizzying. However, Basanta’s honest and often humorous account of her own foibles and near heroics will keep readers entertained while they think about wealth distinctions and absorb new information from an Indian-American author.
A sweet, authentic Indian slice of middle-grade life. (glossary) (Fiction. 8-12)