Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Review: Rickshaw Girl

by Mitali Perkins. This lovely little middle grade novel is on the 2007 ALA Amelia Bloomer Project list of recommended reading for books with strong girl characters. From the ALA site:
"the 2008 Amelia Bloomer Project honors the authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers who give life to books that encourage readers young and old to push the envelope and challenge what it means to be a woman, regardless of ethnicity or social-economic background."
Ten year old Naima lives in Bangladesh with her mother, younger sister and father. Because women and girls do not work outside the home, the family is completely dependent on her father's work as a rickshaw driver. He is overworked, exhausted, and barely making enough money to pay back the loan on his new rickshaw while keeping Naima's younger sister in school for one more year and paying the family's living expenses. Naima, who's won the village competition for painting alpanas decorations on the side of their house for the past few years, wants desperately to be able to help him earn money.

February 21 is International Mother Language Day and on this day the whole country celebrates the beauty of the Bangla language. Naima has a special talent for painting the intricate pattern work. Although she is impulsive and manages to crash her father's rickshaw the first time she tries to drive it, she is able to find a way to use her strengths in surprising ways to help her family. She is blessed with a father that supports and values his daughters so that although in the beginning of the book she wishes she were a boy, by the end of the book she is proud to be a girl.

You can see examples of alpana painting in a lesson conducted by Mitali Perkins' mother, Madhusree Bose, at the PaperTigers blog here. I read this book last Saturday afternoon, not realizing that it was just past International Mother Language Day. What a great way to learn about it! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for middle grade (8-10 year old) readers, as a read aloud, or a kid's book club book. The line drawing illustrations by Jamie Hogan are charming and add just the right touch to the engaging story line. The back of the book includes a glossary, explanation of typical Bangladeshi clothing for boys and girls (including a lungi, salwar kameez, and sari), and explanation of how microfinancing loans are benefiting women, girls and families in Bangladesh as small home business are set up and expanded.

Other reviews:
Author spotlight, chapter preview, discussion and activity guide from publisher Charlesbridge
Jen Robinson (great review! Links to many other blog reviews.)
Shelf Elf
Paper Tigers
Mitali's Fire Escape
Author interview at HipWriterMama
Author interview at Big A, little a


MamaShift said...

This looks like an interesting book. Thanks!

Josephine Cameron said...

i've been wanting to pick this book up...thanks for the review, now i will. :) -josephine
p.s. i tagged your blog today.