Krishnaswami offers a peek into the life of Maria Singh and her loving family in Yuba City, California, in 1945.
Maria, her younger brother, Emilio, and the rest of her close-knit brown-skinned community are adha-adha (“half and half”), with fathers from India (mostly Sikh or Muslim) and mothers from Mexico. The book details a realistic merger of the two cultures, with church and gurdwara (Sikh temple), curry and tortillas, as they confront prejudice and discrimination. With baseball plays running in her head like a baseball announcer’s, the fifth-grade protagonist longs to play softball on the first-ever girls team in Yuba City, and, encouraged by her white teacher/baseball coach, she speaks out at the county board meeting to save their sole baseball field. Maria’s struggles at home and at school are contextualized with period details, as this community lives with the many restrictions placed upon them by World War II and with the laws that discriminate against them. Fighting unfair American laws that bar her immigrant father from citizenship and owning property, Maria is spurred to find a solution that allows them to buy the land her father has been managing for years. Occasional words in Punjabi and Spanish are easy to decipher in context. Filled with heart, this tale brings to life outspoken and determined Maria, her love for baseball, and her multicultural community and their challenges and triumphs.
A loving look at a slice of American life new to children’s books. (Historical fiction. 9-13)