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South Asian Kidlit Newsletter - Spring 2022


A belated Happy New Year! I wish you all a healthy, happy, and safe year ahead. Sorry for the lateness again. Things have turned around for my kid which is great and I am so thankful. But life is still a bit too hectic. 

Congratulations to my dear friend Rajani LaRocca for receiving the Newbery Honor for her MG novel-in-verse, RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE!! This book was also the winner for the Walter Award for Young Readers from We Need Diverse Books. Read my interview with Rajani in the Winter 2021 newsletter.

Also a big congrats to Hena Khan for winning the Asian/Pacific American Award for AMINA'S SONG and to Veera Hiranandani for winning the Sydney Taylor Award for HOW TO FIND WHAT YOU'RE NOT LOOKING FOR.


If you would like to see back issues from the last five years, you can find them on my South Asian Kidlit Page.

Happy Reading!
Author Spotlight
Sheela Chari writes about missing things with humor and heart. She is the author of the upcoming upper middle grade novel, Karthik Delivers, and several middle grade mysteries, including The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel series, based on the Peabody Award-winning podcast; Finding Mighty, a Children’s Choice Award Finalist; and Vanished, an APALA Children’s Literature Honor Book and Edgar finalist for best juvenile mystery. Sheela is a faculty member of the Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program at Vermont College Fine Arts. She lives in New York.

Q: What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your writing?

When I look back at my childhood, I am most fond of the times I laughed out loud with my friends. What we found funny, delightful, or strange are the moments I would be happiest to capture in my own writing. Most of my books are mysteries, and while I do think every story is a mystery of wanting to know what happens next, I find myself more and more drawn to the power of humor to help us understand our world and our relationships with the people we care about.

 

Q: What experience or observation of the world compelled you to write KARTHIK DELIVERS? 

It’s the summer before high school, and fourteen-year-old Karthik is on the brink of change. The thing is, at any given moment, we can all be on the brink of change, too. What would I do? What would you do? In Karthik Delivers, Karthik gets to find out when he’s asked to be in a play and he decides to keep it a secret. Of course secrets don’t stay secret forever, but during this particular summer, Karthik is on a path to deciding how much to listen to others, and how much to follow his own heart. Also, I really love grocery stores. So all those things are in my book: groceries, humor, and change.

You can find out more about Sheela on her website, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Spring 2022 List
Today's list covers books releasing from March thru May of 2022. The books listed below are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author or illustrator, contains a South Asian main character, or involve South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.

For a list of today’s books, check out my South Asian Kidlit Spring 2022 list at Bookshop.org.
Title: The Leaping Ladoo
Author: Harshita Jerath
Illustrator: Kamala M. Nair
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
ISBN: 9780807544136
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian
Synopsis:
Bhago, Bhago as fast as you can! Follow the leaping laddoo (luh-DOO), an Indian dessert, as it flees from the hands of its maker and eludes children, a tea seller, a groom on an elephant, and more. Can anyone end this crazy chase?
Title: One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers
Author: Hena Khan
Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini 
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
ISBN: 9781452182728
Category-Genre: Picture Book - Concept
Community Represented: Muslim
Synopsis:
From one sun to countless stars, this gentle introduction to numbers also celebrates the many diverse traditions of the Muslim world, encouraging readers young and old to reflect upon—and count—their many blessings.
Title: Amazing Landmarks: Discover the hidden stories behind 10 iconic structures!
Author: Rekha S. Rajan
Illustrator: Alex Asfour
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
ISBN: 9781338652499
Category-Genre: Picture Book - Non-Fiction
Synopsis:
Could you design the Golden Gate Bridge? Could you construct the Eiffel Tower? Could you decorate the Burj Khalifa? Could you make a budget, draw up the plans, and handle every problem that arises to create something that withstands the test of time? This accessible nonfiction compendium explores the creation of 10 global landmarks, from the first spark of an idea to the final layer of paint. Acclaimed educator Rekha Rajan encourages readers to see themselves as the engineers, builders, architects, and more through interactive stories and a unique structure.
Title: Zahra's Blessing: A Ramadan Story
Author: Shirin Shamsi
Illustrator: Manal Mirza
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: March 7, 2022
ISBN: 9781646864935
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Muslim
Synopsis:
Zahra hugs her cherished teddy bear and prays that Ramadan will bring her a longed-for sister. When her bear subsequently goes missing, Zahra finds herself grappling with intense feelings of loss. Over the next few weeks, as she volunteers with her mother at a local shelter for asylum seekers, Zahra befriends a displaced child, resulting in a newfound sense of gratitude and an unexpected Ramadan blessing.
Title: Cedric's Tail 
Author: Amani Uduman
Illustrator: Agnès Ernoult
Publisher: Yeehoo Press
Publication Date: March 8, 2022
ISBN: 9781953458223
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis:
A hilarious cautionary tale that invites readers to experience the joys and frustrations of an unexpected gift--with a surprising solution. What would you do if your birthday wish came true--and now you had a tail? Cedric wishes for a tail on his birthday and is overjoyed when his wish comes true. Having a tail is great! Now Cedric can swing around on trees, help his mom clean up the house twice as fast, and even fight crime! As Cedric gets used to his new limb, though, he realizes that having a tail isn't everything he thought it would be . . . but can he ever go back to being a regular tail-less kid? In this hilarious cautionary tale, Amani Uduman and Agnès Ernoult invite readers to experience the joys and frustrations of an unexpected gift--with a surprising solution.
Title: I’ll Go and Come Back
Author: Rajani LaRocca
Illustrator: Sara Palacios
Publisher: Candlewick Press 
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
ISBN: 9781536207170
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian-American/Indian
Synopsis:
When Jyoti visits her grandmother halfway around the world, she is overwhelmed by the differences between India and home. At first she feels lonely and out of place, but soon, despite a language barrier, she and Sita Pati are able to understand each other. They form a bond—looking at books together, making designs with colored sand, shopping at the market, playing games, eating chapatis, and sipping warm milk with saffron to bring sweet dreams. When it’s time to part, Jyoti doesn’t want to leave, but then she remembers that in Tamil, people don’t say goodbye, they say “I’ll go and come back.” Sure enough, the two reunite the next summer when Pati visits Jyoti in America, and it’s Jyoti’s turn to make her grandmother feel welcome. Can they create some special memories that will last until the next time they see each other?
Title: Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes
Author: Mahak Jain
Illustrator: Anu Chouhan
Publisher: Annick Press
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
ISBN: 9781773216157
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian-Canadian
Synopsis:
Paro comes from a dancing family. At home, she dances Bharatanatyam with her mom, and now she’s excited to learn ballet. But what if she can’t dance like the other kids in her class? Ballerinas move like fairies, while Bharatanatyam dancers seem like queens. Paro can’t be both...can she? Anu Chouhan’s vibrant, energetic illustrations emphasize themes of creative flexibility and navigating the intersections of different cultural identities. 
Title: My Bindi
Author: Gita Varadarajan
Illustrator: Archana Sreenivasan
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
ISBN: 9781338598810
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis:
Divya is scared to put on the bindi for the first time. What if she gets made fun of? What will it feel like? But Amma assures her that her bindi will bring protection. After Divya looks inside Amma’s special box to find the perfect bindi to put on, she gazes in the mirror and discovers a new side of herself, and it gives her strength. My Bindi is a universal message of the importance finding oneself and celebrating the unique beliefs and experiences that make us who we are.
Title: Kesar And the Lullaby Birds
Author: Aditi Oza
Illustrator: Debasmita Dasgupta
Publisher: Yali Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
ISBN: 9781949528862
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian
Synopsis:
Kesar's baby sister Kamal will not sleep. Their entire village in the Great Rann of Kutch is kept awake by the infant's cries and her parents are exhausted. When Kesar and Kamal's ba comes to visit, her stories give Kesar a wonderful idea. Perhaps what Kesar needs to put her baby sister to sleep is a little bit of desert magic!
Title: Aru Shah and the End of Time
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Illustrator: Anu Chouhan
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
ISBN: 9781368075053
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Fantasy - Graphic Novel
Synopsis:
The graphic novel adaptation of the New York Times best-selling fantasy adventure by Roshani Chokshi, inspired by the great Hindu epics she grew up on.
Title: Karthik Delivers
Author: Sheela Chari
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
ISBN: 9781419755224
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Contemporary
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis:
Karthik Raghavan is good at remembering things. Like his bike routes. Or all the reasons he likes Juhi Shah—even if she doesn’t even know he exists. It doesn't help that she seems to have a crush on his arch nemesis, Jacob Donnell, whose only job is to humiliate Karthik (and get his name wrong). Then Karthik's luck changes when he secretly agrees to be in a play about the famous musician, Leonard Bernstein. But he can't tell his parents. The family store is in jeopardy, and they need him delivering groceries on his bike to help save it. His mom is also worried about the Financial Crisis, and she's convinced that studying hard and staying focused is the only way to succeed. But Karthik is having fun being Lenny. Besides, what if acting is Karthik’s special talent? And what if acting is the one way to catch Juhi Shah’s attention? With all the pressure from his family to succeed, will Karthik be able to really imagine and hope when he’s not sure what will happen next?
Title: Project Bollywood
Author: Mahtab Narsimhan
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: April 12, 2022
ISBN: 9781459832114
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Contemporary
Community Represented: South Asian - Canadian
Synopsis:
Salman loves Hindi movies and wants to produce a short Bollywood film for his school project. He gathers his friends when he's ready with the script, which is a mashup of all the movies he has ever seen. As director, Salman insists everyone follows the script exactly. But it's full of stereotypes and the cast and crew are not shy about expressing their concerns. Salman wants to remain true to the Bollywood model for his film but when his entire cast threatens to walk out, he has to decide whether to stand firm or find a way to collaborate.
Title: The Wonders We Seek: Thirty Incredible Muslims Who Helped Shape the World
Authors: Saadia Faruqi & Aneesa Mumtaz
Illustrator: Saffa Khan
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2022
ISBN: 9780062973443
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade - Non-Fiction
Community Represented: Muslims
Synopsis:
Throughout history—from the golden age of the empires of Arabia, Iraq, Persia, and India, up to modern day—Muslims have shaped our world in essential ways, with achievements in music, medicine, politics, human rights, literature, sports, technology, and more. Give this book to readers who are excited to learn about the great figures and thinkers in history!
Title: Friends Fur-ever (Must Love Pets #1)
Author: Saadia Faruqi
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
ISBN: 9781338783421
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade
Community Represented: Pakistani-American
Synopsis:

Imaan Bashir loves dogs, but she doesn’t have one. Yet. If only there were a surefire way to demonstrate her special canine connection to her mom. Then she’d be well on her way to pampering a pup of her very own. When one of Imaan’s neighbors needs a last minute pet-sitter for her dog, Sir Teddy, a great idea is hatched. Imaan and her friends London and Olivia will step in as pet-sitters! Imaan’s mom will be so blown away by Imaan’s amazing animal abilities that she will beg her to adopt her own dog. Or something like that. . . But the reality of pet-sitting is a little more complicated―Imaan soon discovers that Sir Teddy is a real paw-full!

Title: All My Rage
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
ISBN: 9780593202340
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Community Represented: Pakistani-American
Synopsis:
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.  Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever. When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.  
Title: Wrong Side of the Court
Author: H.N. Khan
Publisher: Penguin Teen Canada
Publication Date: March 15, 2022
ISBN: 9780735270879
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Community Represented: Pakistani-Canadian
Synopsis:
Fifteen-year-old Fawad Chaudhry loves two things: basketball and his mother's potato and ground-beef stuffed parathas. Both are round and both help him forget about things like his father, who died two years ago, his mother’s desire to arrange a marriage to his first cousin, Nusrat, back home in Pakistan, and the tiny apartment in Regent Park he shares with his mom and sister. Not to mention his estranged best friend Yousuf, who's coping with the shooting death of his older brother. But Fawad has plans: like, asking out Ashley, even though she lives on the other, wealthier side of the tracks, and saving his friend Arif from being beaten into a pulp for being the school flirt, and making the school basketball team and dreaming of being the world’s first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. All he has to do now is convince his mother to let him try out for the basketball team. And let him date girls from his school. Not to mention somehow get Omar, the neighborhood bully, to leave him alone . . 
Title: Debating Darcy
Author: Sayantani DasGupta
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
ISBN: 9781338797695
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Leela Bose plays to win. A life-long speech competitor, Leela loves nothing more than crushing the competition, all while wearing a smile. But when she meets the incorrigible Firoze Darcy, a debater from an elitist private school, Leela can’t stand him. Unfortunately, he’ll be competing in the state league, so their paths are set to collide. But why attempt to tolerate Firoze when Leela can one-up him? The situation is more complicated than Leela anticipated, though, and her participation in the tournament reveals that she might have tragically misjudged the debaters -- including Firoze Darcy -- and more than just her own winning streak is at stake…her heart is, too.
Title: My Sister's Big Fat Indian Wedding
Author: Sajni Patel
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 19, 2022
ISBN: 9781419754531
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Rom-com
Community Represented: Indian - American
Synopsis:
Zurika Damani is a naturally gifted violinist with a particular love for hip hop beats. But when you’re part of a big Indian family, everyone has expectations, and those certainly don’t include hip hop violin. After being rejected by Juilliard, Zuri's last hope is a contest judged by a panel of top tier college scouts. The only problem? This coveted competition happens to take place during Zuri’s sister’s extravagant wedding week. And Zuri has already been warned, repeatedly, that she is not to miss a single moment. In the midst of the chaos, Zuri’s mom is in matchmaking mode with the groom’s South African cousin Naveen—who just happens to be a cocky vocalist set on stealing Zuri’s spotlight at the scouting competition. Luckily Zuri has a crew of loud and loyal female cousins cheering her on. Now, all she has to do is to wow the judges for a top spot, evade getting caught by her parents, resist Naveen’s charms, and, oh yeah . . . not mess up her sister’s big fat Indian wedding. What could possibly go wrong?
Title: Hollow Fires
Author: Samira Ahmed
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
ISBN: 9780316282642
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Community Represented: Muslim-American
Synopsis:
Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal biases affect the story. But all that changes the day she finds the body of a murdered boy.
Jawad Ali was fourteen years old when he built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. A jetpack that got him arrested, labeled a terrorist—and eventually killed. But he’s more than a dead body, and more than “Bomb Boy.” He was a person with a life worth remembering.
Driven by Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him because of their hate-based beliefs.
This gripping and powerful book uses an innovative format and lyrical prose to expose the evil that exists in front of us, and the silent complicity of the privileged who create alternative facts to bend the truth to their liking.
 
Title: A Show for Two
Author: Tashie Bhuiyan
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
ISBN: 9781335424563
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Community Represented: South Asian - American
Synopsis:
All Mina Rahman wants is to finally win the Golden Ivy student film competition, get into her dream school, and leave New York City behind for good. When indie film star Emmitt Ramos enrolls in her high school under a secret identity to research his next role, he agrees to star in her short film for the competition…if she acts as his NYC tour guide. As Mina ventures across the five boroughs with Emmitt, the city she grew up in starts to look more like home than it ever has before. Suddenly, Mina’s dreams—which once seemed impenetrable—begin to crumble, and she’s forced to ask herself: Is winning worth losing everything?
Title: Beauty and the Besharam
Author: Lillie Vale
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
ISBN: 9780593350874
Category-Genre: Young Adult - Rom-com
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old, high-achieving Kavya Joshi has always been told she’s a little too ambitious, a little too mouthy, and overall just a little too much. In one word: besharam. So, when her nemesis, Ian Jun, witnesses Kavya’s very public breakup with her loser boyfriend on the last day of junior year, she decides to lay low and spend the summer doing what she loves best–working part time playing princess roles for childrens’ birthday parties. But her plan is shot when she’s cast as Ariel instead of her beloved Belle, and learns that Ian will be her Prince Eric for the summer.  Exhausted by Kavya and Ian’s years-long feud, their friends hatch a plan to end their rivalry by convincing them to participate in a series of challenges throughout the summer. Kavya is only too eager to finally be declared the winner. But as the competition heats up, so too does the romantic tension, until it escalates from a simmer to a full-on burn.
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