Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood

256p. Albert Whitman. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807563632.
Gr 5–8—Thirteen-year-old Abby Spencer longs for excitement in her happy but uneventful life as a middle schooler in Houston, Texas. After she has a severe allergic reaction to coconut, Abby finds the excitement for which she has been waiting. Needing details about Abby's inherited medical history, her mother contacts the girl's father for the first time in more than 13 years. Soon after, Abby finds herself traveling to India on a whirlwind trip to meet him—a Bollywood film star—for the first time. If not for the Indian setting, Abby Spencer would be a typical, cute-but-nothing-special story of a young girl meeting her estranged father. Abby is a sweet, relatable character, but it's the lush backdrop that sets this book apart. The narrator describes the beauty and the extreme poverty of Mumbai. She feeds beggars and street dogs and reflects on her own day-to-day luxuries in comparison. She learns some Hindi words and phrases, tastes Indian foods, and spends a day on a Bollywood film set. A light, clean romance adds a second plot thread, but this story is mainly about the teen's exploration of her Indian heritage and the relationships between Abby and her parents. Pair with Narinder Dhami's Bollywood Babes (Random, 2006) or Kashmira Sheth's Boys Without Names (HarperCollins, 2010).—Leigh Collazo, Ed Willkie Middle School, Fort Worth, TX
Lifelong Texan Abby Spencer, thirteen, had no idea that her absent father is a Bollywood movie star--and none of his millions of adoring fans know he has a daughter. When she departs for Mumbai to finally meet him, Abby doesn't know what she's getting into. The mostly lighthearted plot holds few surprises, but Mumbai's beauty--and poverty--are creditably developed.

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