February 18, 2018

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The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani | SLJ Review

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redstarHIRANANDANI, Veera. The Night Diary. 272p. glossary. Dial. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780735228511.

Gr 5-8 –Nisha writes to her Muslim mother, who died giving birth to her and her twin brother, Amil, in a diary she receives on their 12th birthday. Through her diary entries, Nisha documents the changes brought about by India’s independence from the British. Nisha and Amil live with their Hindu father, paternal grandmother, and the family’s Muslim chef, Kazi, and they must flee their city after independence. Hiranandani creates a world full of sensory experiences: “I ate a samosa. I ate it slowly, savoring the crispy outside tingling with the tart green chutney I dipped it in.” Readers see the depth of Hiranandani’s characters during the family’s walk to the border, particularly Nisha’s rarely affectionate father who gently cares for her brother and grandmother. Without contrivance, Hiranandani weaves parallels into Nisha’s story—Nisha cooking with Kazi and Rashid Uncle, and Rashid Uncle’s inability to speak along with Nisha’s extreme shyness. She evenly and powerfully communicates the themes of family, faith, humanity, and loss. In the back matter, Hiranandani includes information about how her Indian father’s experiences influenced this story and provides a glossary of Indian terms. VERDICT This rich, compelling story, which speaks to the turbulence surrounding India’s independence and to the plight of refugees, should be in all libraries serving middle grade readers.–Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2018 issue.

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