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The Night Diary
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Veera Hiranandani's The Night Diary was named a 2019 Newbery Honor Book. It's the story of a Hindu family whose home, once in India, becomes part of Muslim Pakistan when British colonial rule ends and religious violence erupts between once-peaceful neighbors. It's loosely based on the experiences of author Hiranandani's family members in the 1940s. As 12-year-old narrator Nisha writes letters to her deceased mother in her diary, she describes the family's flight, hardships, dangers -- including murderous brawls and crazed knife-wielding men trying to kill children. This chapter of recent history will be a revelation to many Western readers. Its messages of love, family, friendship, kindness, and tolerance are still compelling and timely today.
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What's the story?
It's the summer of 1947, and 12-year-old Nisha writes letters each evening to her long-dead mom in THE NIGHT DIARY. There's a lot to write: India, where she lives with her father (a doctor), her twin brother, and her grandmother, is about to become independent. But in the process, the place she's lived all her life is now part of Pakistan, where the Muslim majority doesn't want Hindu families like hers around. On the other side of the border, Muslims are faring just as badly at the hands of Hindus, and all along the way both groups, once peaceful neighbors, are feuding and trying to kill each other. As the family flees to safety, Nisha keeps thinking that the fact that her late mom was Muslim ought to make them friends to everybody, but instead it seems just as likely to get them killed.
Is it any good?
Twelve-year-old Nisha's journal of political turmoil and violence in 1940s India sheds light on a turbulent era. It also delivers a strong message of love, family, and kindness when things are at their worst. And despite the decades that have passed, The Night Diary's story, characters, and issues remain timely and compelling today.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how religion limits where people get to live and work in The Night Diary. Why do you think people might like to live this way? What might not work out so well?
Have you read other books about India, either in the past or today? How does The Night Diary compare?
In the story, Nisha and Amil's parents braved a lot of hostility when they fell in love and got married, because they were from different religions. Do you know any kids whose parents belong to different faiths? Is it a big deal or no problem?
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