Saturday, January 7, 2012
Epistolary Middle Grade Novel
Same Sun Here
by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Candlewick, February 2012
Elise was right, this book is brilliant. Though I picked up the book on Elise's suggestion, I was also drawn in by the beautiful cut-paper cover. The silhouettes of both characters allow readers to see themselves on the cover, and the vivid orange is immediately eye-catching. Faced-out, this book will call to be picked-up.
When Meena, an Indian immigrant in NYC's Chinatown, becomes pen-pals with River, a boy in rural Kentucky, it's initially for a school project. Neither imagine how much they'll write or how important having a far-away friend will become. Though it's an eventful year for both of them, the knowledge that there's a supportive friend under the same sun allows them to navigate everything from the trickiest situations to everyday life.
Though both Meena's and River's lives are very different, their small similarities pull them together long enough for them to become friends. Readers, regardless of their geographic location and immediate similarities, will find themselves in the same situation, becoming fast friends with both. Two or three times I paused because a description felt like it was coming from the adult author and not the pre-teen character, but it was not noticeable enough to keep me from racing along to see what would happen next. River's experiences with coal company practices and environmental activism provide a perfect jumping off point for teachers and book groups, as does Meena's status as an immigrant whose family is seeking citizenship. Silas and Neela smoothly weave these issues into the heart of the novel, while the epistolary format provides a perfect reason for the characters to explain aspects of these issues to one another and, by extension, the audience.
Same Sun Here is a beautifully composed and approachable epistolary novel that will pull readers from a variety of backgrounds and leave them feeling like they've found two new best friends.