In author Wobine Ishwaran’s children’s chapter book, Shashi and Maya are brother and sister, living in a small cottage with their parents and grandfather in South India. They have a simple life together until a flood washes their house away. The kids are separated from the rest of the family, and Shashi must take care of his little sister while trying to reunite them all. They have several adventures along the way, and while there’s a happy ending, it comes with sad news.
Shashi and Maya: A Life of Courage reads smoothly. Each chapter finds the children facing new challenges and obstacles, and the plot and subplots flow together well. Description of the family’s small farm and the destruction after the flood is rich in detail. While parents should be warned that not all characters survive the storm, the deaths are not explicit or scary. Shashi’s care for Maya is affectionate, even when he’s irritated with his little sister, and their bond keeps us reading to see what happens to them.
Ishwaran includes some facts about growing rice in India at the end of the book; they’re interesting but not essential to the story. The author lived in India for years and brings the class disparity and contrast between farmland and busy streets to life. Disoriented, the kids round a corner in the city and find a mangy dog and underfed cow wandering downtown. Food that appears “from Heaven” is actually dropped down by a child from a hotel window who sees the kids below and takes pity on them.
Shashi and Maya is a fast read, and a few misspellings don’t detract from the otherwise fine writing. Young readers are bound to enjoy this story, which offers a glimpse at another culture, an adventure, some educational content and much to discuss.
Also available as an ebook.