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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Padma Venkatraman's The Bridge Home is a novel based on stories of real homeless kids in India. It deals with many harrowing subjects in the voice of 11-year-old narrator Viji, who flees her village for the city of Chennai with her developmentally disabled 12-year-old sister, Rukku, when their abusive father starts to beat them. Proud to support themselves, the girls face overwhelming dangers: starvation, disease, violent people, and more. But they also find kindness and friendship, and form a family of their own with two boys about their own age plus a cute stray dog they rescue. A lot of heavy subjects are packed into this story, including abusive families, sacrifice, death and loss, economic disparity, religious differences, and disability. A man beats his wife when he's drunk. The sisters meet kids who tell stories of being beaten, enslaved, and abused. A boy tells how a tsunami killed his whole family. Narrator Viji's voice is determined, spirited, and appealing -- even when she's dealing with things no kid her age should have to.
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What's the story?
In THE BRIDGE HOME, 11-year-old Viji and her 12-year-old developmentally disabled sister, Rukku, flee their abusive father and their village in India for the city, where they find friendship and shelter by pitching a makeshift tent atop an abandoned bridge. Soon, like millions of other homeless kids in that part of the world, they're spending their days slogging through piles of trash hoping to find something they can sell to stay alive. With two boys about their age and a stray dog they've rescued, they form their own family, help each other, and have a lot of pride. But danger is everywhere, from violent people to disease and injury.
Is it any good?
Spirited tween narrator Viji tells a harrowing tale of love, loss, and looking out for each other as homeless kids in India face appalling hardship with dreams and determination. Drawing from the real stories of the street kids the author's mother worked with in her native country, The Bridge Home finds vulnerable kids struggling to survive amid violence, disease, dirt, and deprivation -- and also moments of sweetness and unexpected kindness. Some sensitive readers may find it too intense, but Viji's engaging, determined voice and refusal to give up will appeal to many, and her struggles will inspire empathy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories that take place in India, like The Bridge Home. What others have you read? How do they compare with this one? What do you find intriguing about India? How is it treated in stories?
Viji and Rukku's family belong to a low caste, which adds to their troubles. What do you know about the caste system in India, and the effect it has on people's lives? Do you see similar things happening in your own culture and community?
In the story, a rich girl convinces Viji to accept a gift of food because it allows the rich girl to do a good deed, and so Viji is actually doing her a favor. Have you ever let somebody do something for you and had it turn out that you were actually doing something for them? What happened?
- Author: Padma Venkatraman
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
- Publication date: February 5, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 18
- Number of pages: 208
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: February 22, 2021
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