Born Behind Bars

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Sept. 2021. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593112472.
Gr 5 Up–Social norms and caste systems are explored in depth in Venkatraman’s latest. Kadir is a boy born behind bars. Accused of stealing from the people she worked for, Kadir’s mother was thrown in jail without a trial. In jail she learned she was pregnant; for the last nine years, Kadir has known only life in prison. Suddenly, Kadir is deemed too old to stay and is thrust out into a world that he has never known. On the hunt to find his father and free his mother, Kadir has to tackle countless obstacles to stay alive on the streets of Chennai, India. This novel is for readers who are seeking realistic fiction that tug at the heartstrings. The story is authentic, and the emotion behind Kadir and his mother’s relationship will induce tears. This is a true window book for many readers unaware of caste systems and the struggles within them. Venkatraman takes these complex topics and makes them heartfelt and resonant.
VERDICT A well-rounded story of a boy and his struggle to survive alone in the world. A suggested read for lovers of timely tales of children surviving all odds, and a suggested purchase for middle school libraries where realistic fiction and adventure circulate well.

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