2016 South Asia Book Award
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins; illustrated by Jamie Hogan (Charlesbridge, 2015). A gripping and heartfelt tale of a young boy’s love for, and sense of responsibility towards, his island home in the Sunderbands of West Bengal and the wildlife that shares it with him. Universal concerns of conservation, equal education, and economic inequality are seamlessly intertwined with the narrative of Neel’s daily life and his adventure with a tiger cub. (Grades 3-6). Check out the Discussion and Activity Guide for Tiger Boy developed by Charlesbridge. Visit Mitali Perkins website to read more about Tiger Boy and other titles by the author.
Dear Mrs. Naidu by Mathangi Subramanian (Young Zubaan, 2015). When twelve-year-old Sarojini is forced to begin the school year without her best friend, Amir, who begins attending a higher class school outside of their neighborhood, she becomes wholly conflicted about her own social standing. Fortuitously, Sarojini’s spirited new teacher assigns her to write letters to someone she would like to know, and as Sarojini channels her thoughts as correspondence with her deceased, freedom-fighter namesake, Sarojini Naidu, she awakens her own sense of activism, communal relationships, familial bonds, and confirmed friendships, both old and new. (Grades 6 and up). Visit Zubaan to learn more about acquiring a copy of Dear Mrs. Naidu!
Bhimrao Ambedkar: The Boy Who Asked Why by Sowmya Rajendran; illustrated by Satwik Gade (Tulika Publishers, 2015). Young Bhimaro does not understand why he is not allowed to sit at a school desk or drink from the same water tap as the other children. His search for answers to all his “whys” leads him on a quest that culminates in his becoming the first Law Minister in India and a writer of the country’s Constitution. Beautiful and vibrant illustrations bring to life the story of one of India’s most important social justice fighters. (Grades K-3). Visit Tulika Books to order copies of The Boy Who Asked Why!
The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers by Mike Masilami; illustrated by Matthew Frame (Tara Books, 2015). An unnamed boy, obsessed with numbers, must not only navigate war torn Sri Lanka, but also the cast of characters and talking animals occupying the refugee camp where he lives. At the heart of this fantastical and often humorous tale is a story about resistance and dealing with the tragedy of a country ripped apart by civil war. The amazing illustrations are dark and rough, which expertly reflect the horrors of the story. (Grades 8 and up). Visit Tara Books to order copies of The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers!
Razia and the Pesky Presents by Natasha Sharma; illustrated by Priya Kuriyan (Duckbill Books, 2015). Hilariously encapturing the frustrations of being a female ruler in the thirteenth century (not as different from today as you might imagine!), this tale bubbles with sly humor, rhythmic rhymes, and a fascinating cast of caricatured characters who are as comical in the exaggerated illustrations as they are in the narrative. (Grades 2-4). Visit Duckbill Books to order copies of Razia and the Pesky Presents!
Highly Commended Books
A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2015). In this contemporary mystery, two girls – Leila in Pakistan and Kai in Texas – are linked to each other through a magical book that slowly discloses the past and changes the future. (Grades 4-7)
Crane Boy by Diana Cohn; illustrated by Youme (Cinco Puntos Press, 2015). Every year Kinga waits for the black-necked cranes to return to his village in Bhutan. When he discovers they are endangered, he and his classmates create a dance and festival to honor the cranes and remind people of the need to safeguard them. (Grades K-4)
My Friend is Hindu by Khadija Ejaz (Purple Toad Publishing, 2015) Most of us don’t have a friend like Arjun to explain to us about sanatana dharma, varnas, samskaras, and atman, but Cameron’s Hindu pal shows him that we only fear what we don’t know. In this concise, approachable story, Khadija Ejaz opens up a world of cultural awareness that’s both curiosity driven and easy to absorb. Photos, familiar concepts and themes, and charming characters root the educational bits in modern reality, so children can better connect with and understand the religion and lifestyle explored. (Grades 4 and up)
Sona and the Wedding Game by Kashmira Sheth; illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi (Peachtree Publishers, 2015). Sona is excited about attending her first Indian wedding, particularly since her sister is the bride. She discovers tradition expects her to steal the groom’s shoes, so she solicits the help of her know-it-all cousin Vishal to pull off the heist. (Grades K-3)