By Anila Akram @mailatale
Ages 9 – 12
I’ve heard the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But admittedly, I do it. What can I say? I’m a visual person, and easily attracted.
When I saw this book cover, coupled with the Bollywood-Hollywood style title, I thought I had this one figured out. Clearly, it was a book about a young person discovering their culture, likely with an elder person who may or may not cook with “artichoke hearts.” And after reading this charming, simple story, I learned that my hunch was somewhat true. But it was a surprisingly remarkable story, nonetheless. Author Sita Brahmachari did not expect to win the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize when she wrote this self-described “quiet story,” but it is thoroughly well deserved.
“Artichoke Hearts” is a love story between the author’s 11-year old-daughter and her own mother-in-law. Mira Levenson is a mixed culture child, who looks up to her Nana Josie, a rebellious hippie-turned-artist.
Nana Josie is dying of cancer, but Mira knows her as the kind of free spirit who paints her own coffin and regales crowds with stories of her days protesting wars in the’60s. As Mira struggles with how to grieve for her Nana, she deals also with her first period, a first crush, and her own artistic talents passed down to her from Nana – painting and writing.
So it is an expected story, a pre-teen girl’s story, but a special one. The characters are unexpectedly unique, Mira’s school friends in particular –especially her crush, Jide Jackson, an orphan of the Rwandan massacre, now living with his adoptive white parents. It feels like a unique and genuinely fresh take on love, family, grief and coming-of-age.
London-based Brahmachari is an author to follow. Her new book, Jasmine Skies, was published this past March, and she is currently co-creating The Arrival, a theatre-circus production based on a graphic novel about migration. Artichoke Hearts is highly recommended!
Great children’s book boxes – Mailatale.ca
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