Perhaps it’s the reporter’s instinct for detail that makes this debut book so riveting. As a journalist, Anappara saw a lot of poor neighborhoods desperate for the return of missing and most likely exploited children. In her creation of a young child as the protagonist in this story, she has created an observer not hindered by adult knowledge, one who sees the world through new eyes. Jai lives in a slum. He goes to school unwillingly, and for good reason—gangs, uncaring teachers and large classes. He‘s Hindi. One of his best friends is Muslim. His other best friend is a girl who excels in academics. His sister is involved in track and field at their school and hopes to be able to compete on the state level. As children disappear from the neighborhood, Jai and his two friends, become detectives hoping to discover what has happened to them. Local Hindis want to blame it on the Muslims, which turns out to be false, but puts undue pressure on the small Muslim population. As a children’s librarian, I’ve always been impressed by the unexpected, wise observations of children, and this book confirms my belief. Children can be keen observers of the word around them. Although the city is unnamed in the book, if you’ve read BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS you are familiar with the corrupt police forces, the conditions of slums, and the challenges of survival. This book puts a clear picture in the reader’s mind of the toll it takes on children.

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