The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic

illus. by Abigail Halpin. 288p. S & S/Atheneum. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-2328-2; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9591-3.
Gr 4–6—Dini and Maddie, 11-year-old BFFs, are together again in this sequel to The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (S & S, 2011). In this novel, the girls are just as starstruck with dazzling Bollywood actress Dolly Singh and eagerly await her arrival in Washington, DC, where she will have her first U.S. fillum (film) premiere. When the celebrity arrives at the airport dripping and dropping her jewelry in typical Dolly-fashion, she discovers that her passport is missing. Dini comes to the rescue, and the plot springs into a comedic romp to retrieve the passport, find a rose petal milkshake (the only thing that can soothe Dolly's nerves), and locate an elephant for the big event. With the help of her friends, the intrepid girl takes care of the unfortunate mishaps that continue to pop up in the days before the premiere, leaving her feeling "slightly heroic." The narrative is light and lilting, with some dialect woven in, and the details will help kids visualize the story's cultural nuances, while Halpin's black-and-white sketches effectively animate significant events. Dini remains grounded and honest throughout the narrative, even as she begins to doubt her friendship with Maddie when a third girl enters the scene. The protagonist also realizes that even though Dolly is beautiful, sweet, generous, and a true star, she is also slightly egocentric and spoiled. Humorous, entertaining, and with a sprinkle of stardust, this book is an enjoyable treat for the tween set, including reluctant readers.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH
A lively novel that seamlessly includes Indian culture with references to fashion, cuisine, and language. The plot itself mirrors a Bollywood story line in a fun, engaging way—lives intersect, with coincidences bringing together characters as varied as a movie star, a zookeeper, a cab driver, and a trio of chefs. Uma Krishnaswami eloquently addresses Dini’s feelings about visiting Washington D.C. after moving from there to India: “The different places in her life are mixing and merging instead of staying firmly on the ground as places are supposed to do.” Readers who are familiar with D.C. will enjoy the inclusion of interesting and popular local sites, especially the National Zoo, Smithsonian Institution, and Union Station. Abigail Halpin’s charming illustrations capture cinematic moments, such as the appearance of an elephant at the film opening.

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