Amil and the After

Penguin/Kokila. Jan. 2024. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525555063.
Gr 4-6–Hiranandani’s Newbery Honor–winning The Night Diary is a family’s story of survival. This companion novel is about their struggle to recover after life-changing trauma. Amil, twin sister Nisha, their father, grandmother, and family cook Kazi endured a harrowing flight from their home after the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. Now living in Bombay, the family struggles to build a new life amid social and political unrest. While Nisha finds solace through writing, Amil expresses himself through drawing. Miranda’s spot art effectively conveys Amil’s longing for all that he has lost. But at 12, he’d also love to have a bicycle and a friend. How he gains both embodies the novel’s themes of hope amid chaos and how kindness can save a life. Kazi advises Amil and Nisha: “Imagine if every person who wasn’t suffering helped one person who was.” A glossary of South Asian terms, words, and names is included but hardly needed as Hiranandani effortlessly incorporates the tastes, sights, sounds, and history of India in engaging prose. Flashbacks to the first novel round out the narrative and allow this sequel to stand on its own.
VERDICT Accessible and engrossing, readers unfamiliar with the historic partition of India and Pakistan will nevertheless readily relate to a boy’s yearning for stability in tumultuous times. A first purchase for all middle grade collections.

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