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ALWAYS ANJALI by Sheetal Sheth


by Sheetal Sheth ; illustrated by Jessica Blank

Pub Date: April 25th, 2023
ISBN: 978-0-593-64883-4
Publisher: Random House

When Anjali’s classmates make fun of her name, her mother helps her see the beauty in it and in her Indian heritage.

On her seventh birthday, Anjali is thrilled to receive exactly the present she’d hoped for: a brand-new bicycle. She takes her gift to the school carnival, where she and her best friends, Mary and Courtney, spot a booth selling license plates for bikes. Although the other girls immediately find plates with their names, Anjali doesn’t have any luck. She asks the shopkeeper for help, but he brushes her off. Even worse, an older boy from school overhears the conversation and mocks her name as other kids join in. Anjali returns home in tears and, over dinner, threatens to change her name to Angie. Anjali’s mother tells her that her name is Sanskrit and that it comes from India (“Anjali is a gift. The most precious kind. Divine. Just like you!”). The book’s message is laudable, and the protagonist is delightfully sparkly. Anjali cuts an endearing, large-eyed figure in Blank’s artwork, and the scene in which Anjali’s mother explains her name shimmers with colors. At times, the prose can be clunky, and the bullying scenes may upset very young readers. Overall, though, it’s an affirming read that will resonate with many readers. Mary is tan-skinned, Courtney is White-presenting, and the community is diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An uplifting tale about embracing what makes us different.

(Picture book. 4-8)