Of late, I have developed a keen interest in children's literature after realising the potential at Onjali Rauf's talk at the Crossroads festival in leicester in autumn last year.
So when I looked for other diverse titles, Costa children's book of the year was announced. Bilan's book Asha and the Spirit Bird came into the spotlight. I enjoye reading it how Bilan's book worked at so many levels. I passed it on to my daughter to see if she was as excited as I was.
She gave back the nearly 300-page book within two days of bedtime reading. I was secretly glad. I was reared on Enid Blytons that offered a mirror to the idyllic English life. I was happy my daughter could read something that will give a glimpse into her own cultural background.
Asha lives in the foot of the Himalayas wtih her mother while her father is working out of town. However, they havent heard from their father for a while and her mother is struggling to pay the bills. One day when the menacing debt collector makes an appearance, Asha decides to get on the journey with her trusted friend Jeevan.
What I liked:
- The opening lines gets straight down to action. The opening scene of the novel where Asha has to make a tough decision decides the course of the book.
- It has the element of exotic with its Indian setting, food and hint of magic realism and yet it is balanced by reason.
- The story is realistic. Children getting caught into child labour is a reality. Harsh living conditions is a fact.
- Asha is bound by traditions yet she is not blinded by it. For me, that element really worked. It shows how religion can be a good thing rather than all the mumbo jumbo usually associated with it.
Good read. Recommended.