We Recommend: Far, Far Away Part 1

Ah, another episode of We Recommend, in which we attempt to match kids up with their  absolutely perfect book. Got a kid in your life who needs a recommendation? Write us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with the age, reading tastes, favorite books, and any other relevant (or irrelevant) information, and we'll give it a shot. And really? All the good options are in the comments, so be sure to look there!

We're catching up! We're catching up! We're…well, we're not totally caught up, but we are trying, so that's something. And don't let that put you off writing in: we love getting the requests. We're just a little slow lately.

This is the first of two exciting international requests, so go grab yourself an atlas and pay attention, as this one is complex:

My husband's sister was invited to a wedding in India and offered to take my daughter as a 10th birthday present!
I am thinking about books in 2 ways:
1) To give her some insight into the place she is going, but doesn't know much about
and
2) To help her through the LONG plane ride and airport layovers.
For 1) I am thinking both of books that might give her some historical context and those with present day settings.
For 2) I would also consider audiobooks, as she has an iPod she will be taking (and can hopefully recharge!)

Other info:
She has already read (and loved) Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories and The Secret Garden, Little Princess, and The Borrowers (so some knowledge of Empire India, but only as a hot plagued place where the characters of those last 3 books came from before making it to God's Country, UK.)
She mostly reads fiction, but I think she could read good narrative nonfiction as she likes historical fiction. She enjoys mystery and fantasy, but not anything she thinks will be too dark or scary. She currently can't put down Flygirl, about an African-American woman trying to pass for white so that she can fly in the women's flight corp in WW2 and also just raved about Nature Girl (city girl on Appalachian trail–or at least I think that's how she described it.)
And don't know if it matters, but she will be in Delhi and Jodhpur (Rajasthan)

OK, take a moment to get over your jealousy (or is it just me?). And another moment to dwell on how completely excellent Haroun and the Sea of Stories is. We love that book.

Good. Now let's think about this.

My first thought was sort of embarrassing: there was this series of books from (gulp) American Girl called Girls of Many Lands, and one of them was about India. Neela: Victory Song. It's about the birth of Indian independence. And the truth is, it was very well researched and thought out and all of that, and it would be fine—but I can't quite stomach offering up something that is so very product-like.

Thus I am left to face my own terrifying lack of awareness about international children's publishing. Indian writers? There must be many, but I know nothing. NOTHING.

Luckily, I am able to rely on Diana, who cheerfully said, "I know! Young Warriors!"

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Two of the stories, she informs me, take place in India. All the stories, she assures me, are excellent. And girls, and adventure, and AWESOMENESS.

But it's a long flight, people. We'll be needing this plus approximately 50 more (20?) to keep this kid happy (and a bunch of them should be audio books, as she noted). What do you have? Put 'em in the comments.

12 thoughts on “We Recommend: Far, Far Away Part 1

  1. My first thought was Rikki Tikki Tavi, but when I looked it up, I learned that it was just a short story in The Jungle Book. I very, very fondly remember reading it and basking in the excitement.
    We recently had a book of myths and legends from around the world from the library. I am betting you could find something similar that focuses on India. There is also a picture book called “My Dadima wears a Sari,” that’s all about what makes a sari cool.

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  2. Rumor Godden! Some of her books set in India are: Peacock Spring, The River, Coromandel Sea Change, Premlata and the Festival of Lights… and there are more. Godden was born over 100 years ago so these are not contemporary books; they are set in India during British Rule. She is an excellent, evocative writer though, and if the child in question loves her, there are TONS of other books of all kinds – fiction, non-fiction, “children’s” and “adult” books, fantasy, realism, many settings and times.

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  3. What about the classic Around the World in 80 Days? I got in on CD from my library and loaded it on my iPod for a trip. It may help put that long, boring (but rather comfy) plane ride into perspective and I think the characters do go through India.

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  4. I’d strongly recommend HOMELESS BIRD, by Gloria Whelan, about a 13-year-old girl in an arranged marriage (it’s children’s, not YA; the marriage is never consummated and that’s not really the issue, it’s more about her independence and developing talent. She’s a great character) and RICKSHAW GIRL, by Mitali Perkins (the Perkins might be a *little* young for her, but it’s an excellent story about a young girl in Bangladesh.). I see there’s also a book by Deborah Ellis set in India, NO ORDINARY DAY; I haven’t read that one but Ellis has written a lot of really really good stuff about contrmporary kids in hard situations in different parts of the world. Uma Krishnaswami is another author I’ve heard excellent things about– again, I haven’t read it, but NAMING MAYA looks like it’d be good; it’s a contemporary story about an Indian-American girl who travels back to India with her mom to sell her grandfather’s house.

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  5. So how about The Diamond in the Window? Ok,ok I know the relation to India is tangential, but it is still one of my favorite books (not just children’s books) of all time.

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  6. For the plane ride, maybe “Journey to the River Sea”? There is a terrific audio book version and although they don’t go to India, there is a young girl who travels to a very foreign place and embraces it.

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  7. In defense of Neela: Victory Song, it’s written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni who is simply an amazing author. I’d trust her to do a Girls From Many Lands book justice.

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  8. I know the perfect book!!!!
    The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, by Uma Krishnaswami–it’s about an eleven year old American/Indian girl, whose parents move to a village in India for a year. Light hearted fun, and a nice introduction to life in India.

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