Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Jul. 2022. 192p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593354391.
Gr 3-6–Twelve-year-old Minni and her older brother Sanjay might live in a poor neighborhood in India, but they have big dreams: to finish school, get good jobs, and maybe live in one of the tall buildings where water runs from the taps. One night, Sanjay and his friend witness the “water mafia” stealing water from the community tap in a tanker truck, and Minni’s world changes overnight. Sanjay and his friend must leave town for their own safety. Minni’s mother, recently ill, leaves to recover in the countryside. Minni must take over her mother’s maid work and household duties until she can return, while balancing school and a new computer coding class at the community center. Despite the title, the story largely focuses on Minni’s internal thirst—for her family to be reunited, for knowledge, for opportunity, for fair treatment—rather than the water thieves. This part of the story is the strongest. Minni is a likable narrator, and readers will connect with her dreams and courage in the face of unfair treatment. The book also serves as a window into class difference. For example, Minni’s job includes cleaning the bathroom for a girl her age and discovering that the room is bigger than her family’s entire apartment. The water thieves plot is resolved too easily, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of the book’s message. One death occurs off-page, and Minni fears it is related to the water mafia, but details are never fully revealed.
VERDICT A meditative first purchase for middle grade collections.

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