Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Eleven-year old Dini loves movies—watching them, reading about them, trying to write her own—especially Bollywood movies. But when her mother tells her some big news, it does not at all jive with the script of her life she has in mind. Her family is moving to India…and, not even to Bombay, which is the center of the Bollywood universe and home to Dini’s all-time most favorite star, Dolly. No, Dini is moving to a teeny, tiny village she can’t even find on a map. Swapnagiri. It means Dream Mountain and it only looks like a word that’s hard to pronounce. But to that open-minded person who sounds the name out, one letter at a time, it falls quite handily into place: S-w-a-p-n-a-g-i-r-i. An honest sort of name, with no surprise letters waiting to leap out and ambush the unwary. That doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises in Swapnagiri like mischievous monkeys and a girl who chirps like a bird—and the biggest surprise of all: Dolly.My Review
I'll be honest - I don't know much about India and Bollywood, so I went into this book a bit clueless as to what to expect. I was very pleasently suprised at what I found.
The Characters: The main character is 11 year old Dini (Nandini). In the very first chapter we learn two things - Dini loves a very famous Bollywood actress, Dolly Singh and she is moving to India for two years. As this would anyone, it throws her and her best friend Maddie into a spiral. They only way they have out of it is to focus on the fact that something seems wrong with Dolly since her last movie had no happy songs in it, and that Dini is moving to the same country as Dolly. So instead of focusing on the fact she is moving, her and Maddie focus on how to "fix" Dolly.
Dini seemed liked any other 11 year old I know who is completely obsessed with a certain actor/actress or singer. She knows everything about Dolly, about her movies and about her life. I know girls that could tell me everything about whoever famous they "love". It's through this obsession that Dini's personality comes through. She's determined and refuses to acknowledge that, even with her plan to fix whatever is wrong with Dolly, it may not happen. All she sees is what she can do - yes getting frustrated at times, but always finding a way around it. I don't think, if I was 11 like her, if I would've felt as confident in my ability to carry out my plan!
The Plot: The interesting thing about how this story is written is that it's not just from Dini's view point. It jumps around to several key players in the story including a very likable mail carrier. At first I found this a bit confusing, but as the story progressed I had learned all the characters, so the jumping around was fine. And by that time I was super curious how all these pieces were going to come together. It was pretty cool to see how Uma Krishnaswami was able to take all those think story threads and bring them together to a very satisfying ending. Sometime when you have that many pieces floating around, something gets left hanging. I didn't feel that happened in this story at all. How the mail carrier's story played out was really sweet to me.
I found this to be a sweet story filled with kismet. Here's how Lal (the mail carrier) talks about what kismet is.
There is is again, that thing that most people would call coincidence. Lal prefers to think of it as kismet. Some people would say kismet means fate but really it's a far more beautiful idea - it is the idea that in spite of all the obstacles, some things are meant to be. (pg 118-9)To me that was really what this story was about - that basic hope that things that are meant to be will work out in the end.
Final thought: Filled with sweetness, color, sound and yes kismet
Best stick-with-you image: The monkeys
Best for readers who: like a story where lots of pieces come together
Best for ages: 10-13
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