Mock Newbery Nominee: Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

In the third installment of our Mock Newbery summaries and reviews you'll have a chance to decide if Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani is a story worthy of your vote. This graphic novel follows Priyanka, a second generation Indian-American, as she struggles with questions of identity and family secrets.

Summary: Priyanka is a girl between two worlds, not fully comfortable in either. At school in America, she is teased about her name and clothes, and struggles with confidence in her comic-making abilities. At home, she has so many questions about India that her mother refuses to answer, and her honorary uncle is soon to be a "real" father, leaving Priyanka feeling bereft of her only father figure. In this time of upheaval, she finds a pashmina in her mother's old suitcase, that gives her visions of the India she so desperately wants to know. Winning a comics contest brings the means to visit India, where she finally finds the answers to her questions about her family. She also discovers the secret of the pashmina, which allows women to see the choices available to them. Priyanka's new knowledge helps her understand her mother's choices and gives her the confidence to make new choices for herself too.

The graphic novel format is a very effective presentation for children, as it is so accessible to struggling readers. Chanani's illustrations also nicely support her descriptions of Priyanka's visions of the beauty of India and eventual look at the real India. Chanani does a beautiful job of exploring the theme of identity and self-discovery. Knowing your family history, knowing where you come from, can seem vitally important in adolescence as you are finding out what kind of person you want to be. Not knowing the whole story can be frustrating, which Chanani shows with Priyanka's constant questions about life in India. The story does a good job of showing the complicated and messy relationships between family members, particularly Priyanka's relationship with her mother.

Don't just take my word for it, check out Mari's post about Pashmina earlier this year. Stay tuned next week for another summary and review if you haven't read all the nominees, then visit our Kid's Page before January 31st to cast your votes.


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