A fourth-grader helps underprivileged kids and learns a valuable lesson in this debut children’s novel.
Although Sona is smart and attends a prestigious international school in India, her grades aren’t what her mother expects. Often, the girl lacks focus and constantly wonders about the world around her. On her mother’s birthday, Sona and her parents visit an orphanage. Later, Sona worries about the orphans’ education and well-being. Her mother, who works for an organization teaching underprivileged kids, explains that children can get a good education anywhere— “where they get it is secondary.” Still, Sona wants to help. With the assistance of teachers, parents, and friends, she ensures that deprived and orphaned children participate in One Spectrum, her school’s extracurricular competition. Sona also urges Aunt Nyla, her mother’s friend and colleague, to help a boy named Pawan, who works at a tea stall. Despite Pawan’s limited education and poverty, he joins Sona’s community, inspiring many with his intelligence, cartography skills, and humility. One Spectrum is a huge success and Sona realizes that education and wealth don’t equal superiority. In this novel, Upadhyay offers a heartwarming message that emphasizes the importance of empathy, education, and literacy. A short, helpful glossary of terms is also included. The narrative delivers some nice lines like “Sona lived in an imaginative world where butterflies hovered over math textbooks and pencils danced.” But other literary devices are unusual (“Earth was a plump girl who…asked…the planets to get her desserts…if the planets did not bribe Earth by providing…desserts, she would say negative things about them”). Some significant facts are randomly inserted in the text rather than smoothly incorporated into the story. For example, Upadhyay describes late in the book how Sona’s mother lived in an orphanage as a kid. Integrated into the tale early on, this background would have added an intriguing element to Sona’s character. And topics and settings sometimes oddly skip around within the same paragraphs and sentences (“After spending the day with…children, she returned home. At 9 p.m., the party had just begun…guests were arriving at the venue”).
A heartfelt but meandering tale about a resourceful Indian student.