illustrated by Amanda Hall
Why would a little boy be invited to a classmate’s house to watch the Diwali fireworks only to be cruelly sent away by his friend’s grandmother? In this solemn but hopeful tale of one boy’s sad experience, readers will learn that lightness and darkness exist within all of us. Kumar is turned away from Andal’s house because he is a Dalit and Andal is a high-caste Brahmin, and according to ancient caste norms, the two do not mingle. The event provides an opportunity for Kumar to put his despair into perspective and learn that India is changing. Readers might recognize similarities between the Indian caste system and racial segregation in the U.S., as Grandfather describes the activism that spurred legal changes ensuring that “under the law . . . we are all equal.” Hall’s illustrations echo traditional Indian folk art, while Whelan deftly explains that the persistence of the caste system is mostly because of older individuals who won’t change. This book raises big questions about society and its norms that will challenge readers’ intellectual curiosity.