Friday, June 21, 2013

Review - "Same Sun Here"

I get requests at the library every so often for “multicultural books”. Generally, they are looking for picture books, but there will be requests for middle grade books as well, especially books that are good to read aloud with a classroom. The past few years have given us several titles to fit this exercise, one of my favorites being Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai, and 2012 offered another wonderful example: Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani.

Meena lives in New York City’s Chinatown, by way of India, and River lives in coal-mining Kentucky. They are paired together by chance in a pen-pal program, and quickly start to bond over their shared experiences. Both Meena and River live without their father, who works away from the family. Both have grandmothers to whom they are very close. And both feel the danger of their homes being uprooted: Meena by her pernicious landlord and River by the dangerous practice of mountaintop removal. Meena and River share stories and advice, argue about boy/girl dynamics and eventually find strength in each other.
Same Sun Here not only gives glimpses into the lives of two very different cultures, it offers examples of families that are struggling economically, right on the cusp of the 2008 financial crisis. Meena and River’s letters are a unique historical document, taking note of Barack Obama’s election and the variety of opinions and reactions this brought in different parts of the country. House and Vaswani are very conscientious of their audience and never let the fear or outrage overwhelm the story. Always we are drawn back into the inherit goodness of these two children and their burgeoning friendship. Though the story ends on a bit of an ambivalent note for one of them, there is still a powerful hope than remains.
Written in two distinct voices, but never feeling alien to each other, Same Sun Here is a valuable book. It teaches compassion and the urgent need to stand up what you believe. I’ll be glad to have this book in hand when teachers and parents come to call.

Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
2012, Candlewick
Library copy

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