Review of The Bridge Home

The Bridge Home 
by Padma Venkatraman
Intermediate, Middle School    Paulsen/Penguin    194 pp.    g
2/19    978-1-5247-3811-2    $16.99 

In a drunken rage, the father of eleven-year-old narrator Viji breaks her mother’s arm. Viji decides, “If I wanted a better future, I needed to change the life we had. Now.” The next morning, she and her sister Rukku run away from home, taking a bus from their village to Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, India. There they befriend two homeless boys, Arul and Muthu, and take up residence in a tent on a decrepit bridge. The children eke out a living selling glass and other recyclables scavenged from the city’s huge garbage dumps (one called the “Himalayas of rubbish”). Viji focuses on taking care of Rukku, who has an intellectual disability, and puts her dream of becoming a schoolteacher on hold. Written in short chapters directly addressed to Rukku in which traumatic events are balanced with personal reflection, this bittersweet story is about breaking the cycle of abuse, reaching for your dreams, and finding home in the most unlikely people and places. The novel also delves into sweeping systemic issues of poverty and child homelessness in contemporary India; an afterword provides more information.

From the January/February 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam

Calling Caldecott co-author Julie Hakim Azzam is the assistant director of the MFA program in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She holds a PhD in literary and cultrual studies, with a specialization in comparative contemporary postcolonial literature from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Southeast Asia. Her most recent work focuses on children's literature, stories about immigrants and refugees, and youth coping with disability.

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