- Outside In by Jennifer Bradbury
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4424-6827-6 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4424-6829-0 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4–6
Ram, an eleven-year-old street boy in the Indian city of Chandigarh, finds himself in a whirlwind of trouble when, in his usual routine of playing gilli, a batting game, for earnings and food, he wins the wealthy bully Peach Fuzz’s pocket money and expensive watch. Now Peach Fuzz and his cronies are after him, and Ram scrambles to find a way to escape them and pay his debts. Amidst the excitement of close calls and quick escapes, Ram finds sanctuary and friendship with a man named Nek, who gives Ram glimpses of a wider world through thrifted sculptures and the enthralling traditional story of the legendary Rama. Interpolated chapters featuring bolded text and mehndi-designed page decorations highlight the storytelling, and these sections alone could be read collectively and still maintain their cohesion, but they also work throughout the book to highlight Ram’s character development and budding value system. There is particular attention paid to the inclusion of cultural pieces, such as the Pakistani/India partition and use of simple Punjabi words that authentically frame and contextualize the plot. A fast-paced and exciting read, this is a particularly solid pick for readers interested in India or in legends. An author’s note describes Bradbury’s experience in India and the real-life inspiration for Nek, and a glossary is included.