September 22, 2017

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Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar | SLJ Review

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redstarKELKAR, Supriya. Ahimsa. 304p. Tu Bks. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781620143568.

Gr 4-6 –Ten-year-old Anjali’s comfortable life changes dramatically when her parents decide to honor Mahatma Gandhi’s request that every Indian family give one member to the fight for freedom from British rule. Anjali’s mother takes the active role, first learning to spin cotton on the charkha in order to make khadi, or homespun clothes, and teaching others to do the same. Her aspirations expand to helping the Dalit community, referred to with the pejorative “untouchables” by most in the town. It is Anjali’s observation that the Dalit children in their town should be able to go to school, and Ma is determined to make that happen. The road ahead is not smooth, as violence breaks out between Hindus and Muslims in their town and across the country, and Ma and other freedom fighters are jailed unjustly for their efforts, though they follow the principles of “ahimsa,” or nonviolent resistance. Anjali continues her mother’s crusade to integrate their school, knowing that before she can change others’ beliefs, she must first change her own. Inspired by the author’s great-grandmother, this well-written, accessible middle grade debut is powered by strong, fully developed characters who make mistakes and learn over the course of the story. Anjali and Ma in particular, though well-intentioned, are guilty of several missteps, which make them even more realistic and relatable to readers. They learn that change is not easy or straightforward, and Anjali especially learns how important it is to recognize and confront inequality. VERDICT A historical, timely, and informative story that is full of heart and belongs in most library collections.–Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

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