A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Backstory involving partition of India into India and Pakistan, with members of "wrong" religion having to move to the other country, will be new to many kids and adults. Based on experiences of the author's family, the story makes the human impact of the political maneuvers especially vivid, harsh. Glossary and author's afterword are useful for the Indian terms and cultural references.
Strong messages of tolerating differences, religious and otherwise; also family, endurance -- and a love of cooking. Striking scenes involve characters showing kindness when the recipient doesn't expect (or, possibly, deserve) it.
Positive Role Models
Narrator Nisha is relatable and courageous as she deals with her former life falling apart. She's especially close to her twin brother, Amil, and the family's Muslim cook, Kazi, who's devoted to them but has to stay behind when they leave. Adult characters including Nisha's father and grandmother show courage and care for their loved ones even when they're overwhelmed, and characters met along the way show kindness to others, regardless of what religion they practice.
Violence & Scariness
Characters in danger for most of the story, sometimes have to leave a place because they're putting others in danger. Deadly religious warfare is what drives the family from their once-happy home as refugees. In one scene, a crazed stranger holds a knife to a tween character's throat, planning to kill her in revenge for his own family. Onetime friends and neighbors start beating and killing each other over religious differences, and bullies start the process young. Nisha and Amil's mother died giving birth to them, so their birthday is always sad as well as happy.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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