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Asha and the Spirit Bird
Cover of Asha and the Spirit Bird
Asha and the Spirit Bird
Asha lives on a family farm with her mother in rural India in the foothills of the Himalayas. Life would be perfect if her father were with them instead of working at the factory in the faraway city....
Asha lives on a family farm with her mother in rural India in the foothills of the Himalayas. Life would be perfect if her father were with them instead of working at the factory in the faraway city....
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  • Asha lives on a family farm with her mother in rural India in the foothills of the Himalayas. Life would be perfect if her father were with them instead of working at the factory in the faraway city. But she knows they wouldn't be able to afford their home without the money he sends home.
    When four months go by without a single letter, a ruthless debt collector arrives with a warning, and soon the entire world that Asha has known is threatened. Determined to save her home, Asha and her best friend must swallow their fears and set out on a dangerous journey across the Himalayas to find her father.
    As desperation turns to peril, Asha will face law enforcement, natural disaster, and the wild dangers of the Himalayas. But with a majestic bird and a green-eyed tiger as her guides, who she believes to be the spirits of her ancestors, she's determined to keep faith in order to save her family.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2020
    When her papa disappears and moneylenders come to collect on old debts, Asha knows it's up to her to save her family farm. Eleven-year-old Asha loves her village of Moormanali, in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, where her ancestors have lived for generations. Times are hard, however, so her papa has gone to the big city of Zandapur to find work to help pay for the family farm. But when he disappears for four months without sending any wages home, Asha's mother is forced to take a loan from a cruel moneylender who demands repayment. Determined to find her father, Asha decides to set off for Zandapur with her best friend, Jeevan--and with the help of a lamagaia, a vulturelike bird that Asha is convinced is the spirit of her long-dead grandmother. Bilan has created a richly drawn setting, fast-paced plot, and a strong but tender first-person-present narrative voice. The last third of the book, in which Bilan fully commits to the story's more magical elements, is the most enjoyable, while the first two-thirds rely more on conservative Hinduism and therefore feel less imaginative. At times, the interactions between Jeevan and Asha fall along gender-stereotypical lines, but the most troubling aspect of the book is the title, which seems to appropriate Native American beliefs about spirit animals that do not have a parallel in Hinduism. A well-plotted narrative rooted in Hinduism. (author's note) (Fantasy. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    June 1, 2020

    Gr 4-6-Asha's father has traveled to the city to make money, but his family hasn't heard from him in months. Asha's mother feels the only thing to do is sell their farm in India at the base of the Himalayas and move to England. Asha cannot believe that her father would abandon her family and is determined to find him. With the help of her best friend Jeevan and the watchful "dark-flecked" eye of a lamagaia vulture that Asha believes is the spirit of her grandmother, the duo sets off on a dangerous, cold, rocky, and fateful journey to locate her father. With mythical guides believed to be the spirits of her ancestors, Asha has more than just luck on her side. Bilan creates a believable world with real-life conflicts and characters that will resonate. Though the names of places are made up, descriptions of harsh societal conditions such as sickness, child servitude, and poor working environments are rooted in reality. This adventure has its twists and turns, but the book is a somewhat quiet story that can lag in momentum. The resolution leaves a saccharine tone that contrasts with the rest of the narrative, and seems a bit too quick and convenient. However, readers will feel that Asha deserves a happy ending. VERDICT A heroic adventure with a brave, believable female character that would appeal to those who like realistic fiction with a dash of magic.-Clare A. Dombrowski, Amesbury P.L., MA

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    May 1, 2020
    Grades 4-7 Eleven-year-old Asha doesn't know why her ma borrowed money to keep them afloat. After all, her papa's been working in the city and sending his wages?only the wages have stopped coming, and so have his letters. With threats from the lender and the possibility of having to leave their life on the Himalayan foothills behind, Asha uses her faith in the spirit of her nanijee (grandmother), in the form of a powerful bird, to guide her and her best friend, Jeevan, through northern India, braving the elements and people both cruel and kind to find her papa by Divali. The 300 pages in Bilan's debut don't just cover miles of literal ground, but lengths of a religious and spiritual journey too. The blend of magical realism is necessary to guide the pair's arduous, almost inconceivable passage; however, readers might have to suspend their disbelief to get through some truly nightmarish encounters. Bilan's depiction of a resilient friendship and succinct storytelling, accompanied by a glossary of Hindi and Punjabi terms, will propel readers to a promising conclusion.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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