Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Nina Soni, middle grader at large

My reading mojo is back, thank goodness, so let’s keep fingers crossed that my blogging mojo is back, too.

I just finished two books that I think are great for that intermediate/middle grade reader who isn’t quite ready to take on the 300-400 page books just yet, but the 80-10 pagers are leaving them wanting a little more. Let’s meet Nina Soni and her family, shall we?

Nina Soni, Former Best Friend, by Kashmira Sheth/Illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky, (Oct. 2019, Peachtree Publishers), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-057-0

Ages 7-12

Nina is an Indian-American elementary school student with a loving family, a little sister who can bug her sometimes, and a knack for making lists, which she keeps in her journal, named Shakhi, which means “friend” in Hindi. She’s got big ideas, but they don’t always turn out the way she expects. In Former Best Friend, Nina finds herself on the outs with her best friend, Jay. She also has her little sister’s birthday party to help plan, and a school project where she has to come up with and write about a great discovery!

Nina Soni is such a likable character. She thinks a lot: she works out math to describe her family while her father’s away for work during the week; she writes down words she’s thinking and learning about, defining them in easy-to-understand words and breaking them down by syllable. She’s organized, making lists – to follow, lists about things she likes, things that drive her crazy. Kavita, Nina’s younger sister, is younger, freer, sillier, and it drives Nina crazy as much as she loves her. Cooking and family are main activities in the book, and there’s some interesting bits about Indian culture throughout.  It’s a fun story with likable characters and black and white line drawings and notebook pages throughout. Give this one an add to your middle grade collections, and booktalk it with books like Planet Omar by Zanib Mian, Alvin Ho and Ruby Lu books by Lenore Look  and Debbi Michiko Florence’s Jasmine Toguchi books.

 

Nina Soni, Sister Fixer, by Kashmira Sheth/Illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky, (Apr. 2020, Peachtree Publishers), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-054-9

Ages 7-12

Nina’s back and this time, she’s GOT to do something about Kavita. Her younger sister is driving her CRAZY, making up songs all the time; songs that don’t make sense, that don’t rhyme, that are just plain annoying! Spring Break is coming, and they’re going away to Jay’s grandfather’s cabin for a couple of days; Nina decides she’s got three days to “fix” her sister so she won’t embarrass her on their trip. Nina also decides to build a dam using some of the dirt by her next door neighbor’s house; a project that may keep Kavita entertained enough to forget about singing. But her impromptu science project may be more than she bargained for!

Even more fun than Former Best Friend, Sister Fixer has some great moments, including an emergency phone call to India that will leave readers laughing out loud. Kavita is a gleeful first grader who loves to dance, make up songs, and make artwork; that it gets on her bigger sister’s nerves is of no consequence: something older siblings will recognize and empathize with. Writing in Shakhi helps Nina come to her own conclusions, making this a good book to suggest to fledgling writers and journalers to record their thoughts and revisit them.

Don’t miss either of these books! Enjoy a Q&A with author Kashmira Sheth here and get a free discussion guide for both books here.

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour: Feast of Peas by Kashmira Sheth

I love a good folk tale, and Kashmira Sheth has certainly given me one with her newest book, Feast of Peas!

Feast of Peas, by Kashmira Sheth/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler,
(March 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-135-5
Ages 5-8

Set in India, Feast of Peas is about Jiva, a farmer who works in his garden “until the sun turned as red as a bride’s sari”, tending to his crops; he’s most excited, though, for his peas. He can’t wait for them to grow, so he can gobble them up. He loves peas! But so does Jiva’s friend, Ruvji, who stops by to see how Jiva’s crops are faring. As Jiva sings his Feast of Peas song, Ruvji stands close by, imagining his own yummy feast of peas… and when Jiva discovers that his peas are going missing, Ruvji is right there, suggesting culprits from rabbits to ghosts. Jiva’s precautions don’t protect his poor peas, so Jiva must take matters into his own hands… and wait until he discovers who the thief is!

 

Feast of Peas is so much fun! Kashmira Sheth’s storytelling style is perfect for a storytime setting. She includes easily recognizable folktale elements, like everyday situations, a puzzling problem, and a solution that neatly concludes the story. Her writing style draws readers into the story, and there’s fun repetition in the interplay between Jiva and Ruvji and their daily routines: Jiva’s work in the garden; Ruvji’s daily visits; Jiva’s song, “Plump peas, sweet peas, / Lined-up-in-the-shell peas. / Peas to munch, peas to crunch, / I want a feast of peas for lunch”, and Ruvji’s response, “Peas are delicious. I would enjoy a feast of peas”. A ghost story is played for laughs, and friendship and sharing win the day at the end of the story. Jeffrey Ebbeler’s artwork brings Kashmira Sheth’s story to life with acrylic illustrations giving readers earth tones, characters with expressive faces and body language, and delicious plates of Indian food! Peapods and peas decorate the endpapers, stoking readers’ appetites.

Absolute fun. Add Feast of Peas to your folk and fairytale sections, and ask your kids what they think the morale of the story is. Publisher Peachtree has a free, downloadable teacher’s guide that includes talking points about art, social studies, math, music, movement, and more.