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The Bridge Home
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The Bridge Home
"Readers will be captivated by this beautifully written novel about young people who must use their instincts and grit to survive. Padma shares with us an unflinching peek into the reality millions of...
"Readers will be captivated by this beautifully written novel about young people who must use their instincts and grit to survive. Padma shares with us an unflinching peek into the reality millions of...
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  • "Readers will be captivated by this beautifully written novel about young people who must use their instincts and grit to survive. Padma shares with us an unflinching peek into the reality millions of homeless children live every day but also infuses her story with hope and bravery that will inspire readers and stay with them long after turning the final page."—Aisha Saeed, author of the New York Times Bestselling Amal Unbound
    Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman's stirring middle-grade debut.
    Life is harsh in Chennai's teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Ruku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter—and friendship—on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city's trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.


  • From the book 1

    Talking to you was always easy, Rukku. But writing's hard.
    "Write her a letter," Celina Aunty said, laying a sheet of pa­per on the desk. Paper remade from wilted, dirty, hopeless litter that had been rescued, scrubbed clean, and reshaped. Even the pencil she gave me was made from scraps.
    "You really like saving things, don't you?" I said.
    Crinkly lines softened her stern face. "I don't like giving up," she said.
    She rested her dark hand, warm and heavy, on my shoulder.
    "Why should I write?" I said. "It's not like you have her address."
    "I believe your words will reach her," Celina Aunty said.
    "We're opposites," I said. "You believe in everything and everybody. You're full of faith."
    "Yes," she said. "But you're full, too. You're full of feelings you won't share and thoughts you won't voice."
    She's right about that. I don't talk to anyone here any more than I have to. The only person I want to talk to is you, Rukku.
    Maybe writing to you is the next best thing.
    If you could read my words, what would you want me to tell you?
    I suppose you'd like to hear the fairy tale you'd make me tell every night we huddled together on the ruined bridge. The story that began with Once upon a time, two sisters ruled a magi­cal land, and ended with Viji and Rukku, always together.
    That story was made up, of course.
    Not that you'd care whether it was true or not. For you, things were real that the rest of us couldn't see or hear.
    When I finished the story, you'd say, "Viji and Rukku to­gether?"
    "Always." I was confident.
    Our togetherness was one of the few things I had faith in.


    You always felt like a younger sister, Rukku. You looked younger, too, with your wide eyes and snub nose. You spoke haltingly, and you hunched your shoulders, which made you seem smaller than me, though you were born a year before.
    Born when our father was a nice man, I suppose, because Amma said he was nice. Before.
    Imagining Appa "before" took a lot of imagining. I was a good imaginer, but even so, I couldn't imagine him all the way nice.
    The best I could do was think of him as a not-yet-all-the-way-rotten fruit. A plump yellow mango with just a few ugly bruises.
    I could imagine our mother picking him out, the way she'd pick fruit from the grocer's stall, choosing the overripe fruit he was happy to give her for free. I could see Amma looking Appa over, hoping that if certain foul bits could be cut away, then sweetness, pure sweetness, would be left behind.
    Because Amma did choose him. Their marriage wasn't ar­ranged.
    Somehow he charmed her, charmed her away from her family, with whom she lost all touch. They were ashamed, she told me, ashamed and angry with her for eloping with someone from an even lower caste than the one she'd been born into.
    It was all she ever said about her family. Not their names or where they lived or how many brothers and sisters she had. Only that they wanted nothing to do with us. And Appa's fam­ily—if he had one—didn't seem to know we existed either.
    Sometimes I wonder if they might have helped us if they'd known. But maybe they'd have done nothing, or acted like our neighbors and schoolmates, who did worse than nothing. Who sniggered or made rude comments when we walked past. Com­ments that upset you so much you stooped even lower than usual, so low it looked like you wanted to hide your head inside your chest....


  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2018
    Venkatraman's middle-grade debut tackles sisterhood, chosen families, and loss.Eleven-year-old Viji and her sister, Rukku, flee their abusive father after he breaks Amma's arm and kicks Rukku. They find themselves, overwhelmed, in the big city of Chennai, where they are temporarily employed by kind Teashop Aunty, who offers them bananas and vadais, and fall in love with a puppy, Kutti, who becomes their constant companion. The sisters meet Muthu and Arul, two boys who live under an abandoned bridge, and join them; Viji tells Rukku elaborate stories to reassure herself and her sister that they will be OK. Soon, Viji finds herself telling the young boys her stories as well; in return, the boys show the girls how to earn money on the streets: by scavenging for resalable trash in a very large garbage dump Muthu calls "the Himalayas of rubbish." When tragedy strikes, it is this new family who helps Viji come to terms. Craftwise, the book is thoughtful: Venkatraman employs the second person throughout as Viji writes to Rukku, and readers will ultimately understand that Viji is processing her grief by writing their story. Viji's narration is vivid and sensory; moonlight "slip[s] past the rusty iron bars on our window"; "the taste of half an orange...last[s] and last[s]." The novel also touches on social justice issues such as caste, child labor, and poverty elegantly, without sacrificing narrative.A blisteringly beautiful book. (Fiction. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    February 1, 2019

    Gr 4-6-In her stellar middle grade debut, Venkatraman (A Time to Dance) brings compassionate attention to the plight of India's homeless children. Fleeing their father's physical abuse, sisters Viji and Rukku end up on the harsh streets of the city of Chennai. Eleven-year-old Viji is younger by one year, but Rukku's unspecified developmental delays put Viji in charge of their survival. Seeking shelter on a crumbling bridge, Viji finds two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, who are willing to share what little they have. The four children become a fiercely devoted family, armed with nothing more than resourcefulness and Viji's faith that their fortunes will improve one day. Despite their determination, hunger and sickness eventually take their toll on the children: Viji's hopefulness falters when one of her steadfast promises to Rukku cannot be kept. The sisters' bond provides both the narrative's heart and its structure. Viji writes the novel as if talking to Rukku, words that comfort her just as the fairy tales Viji told every night on the bridge lifted their spirits. Characters grow along with their newfound autonomy; Rukku demonstrates skills overprotective Viji never recognized. Muthi and Arul begin to believe they have a future. Venkatraman's depiction of the streets of Chennai is a sensory experience. Her elegant prose tells a heartfelt, wholly captivating story while encouraging readers to consider larger issues including religion, poverty, and the caste system. VERDICT An unforgettable tale of families lost, found, and moving ahead without leaving those they love behind.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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