FICTION

Asha and the Spirit Bird

Scholastic/Chicken House. Jun. 2020. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338571059.
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Gr 4-6–Asha’s father has traveled to the city to make money, but his family hasn’t heard from him in months. Asha’s mother feels the only thing to do is sell their farm in India at the base of the Himalayas and move to England. Asha cannot believe that her father would abandon her family and is determined to find him. With the help of her best friend Jeevan and the watchful “dark-flecked” eye of a lamagaia vulture that Asha believes is the spirit of her grandmother, the duo sets off on a dangerous, cold, rocky, and fateful journey to locate her father. With mythical guides believed to be the spirits of her ancestors, Asha has more than just luck on her side. Bilan creates a believable world with real-life conflicts and characters that will resonate. Though the names of places are made up, descriptions of harsh societal conditions such as sickness, child servitude, and poor working environments are rooted in reality. This adventure has its twists and turns, but the book is a somewhat quiet story that can lag in momentum. The resolution leaves a saccharine tone that contrasts with the rest of the narrative, and seems a bit too quick and convenient. However, readers will feel that Asha deserves a happy ending.
VERDICT A heroic adventure with a brave, believable female character that would appeal to those who like realistic fiction with a dash of magic.

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