Akash’s talent for math can’t stop the drought in his village in India, can’t grow enough crops to pay back the money his family owes, can’t cure the fever that strikes his father. So he must leave school and the village at age 12 to work off their debt in the landlord’s stone quarry. Everything is fated, his family says – the heavens have control of earth, and we cannot change what is fated. But Akash prays to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, that someday, somehow, he will return to school to learn more math and English.
Akash finds that his hard work at the quarry only nibbles at the family’s debt, so he could work there until he was an old man before he paid it off. Not content that fate will keep him at the quarry forever, he sneaks onto a train bound for the huge city of Delhi where he could earn money faster.
The New Delhi train station is like a city itself – huge and crowded and noisy. Akash falls in with a group of orphan boys who collect bottles and boxes for money. Soon he meets up with people who want to help him and people who want to use his talents only to earn money for themselves.
Can Akash keep himself safe in Delhi? Can he survive and earn money for his family in honest ways, as his father taught him? Will he ever get to school again, or will he remain homeless and poor like so many other youngsters in his crowded country?
A fascinating story with too-real situations, you’ll root for Akash as he strives for wisdom, trying to follow Saraswati’s Way in his fight for survival.
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA
Twelve-year-old Akash is good at math. He lives in rural Rajasthan in India and his teacher has taught him everything he knows about math. He's gone as far as he can in the local school that he attends for free. If Akash is to go any farther he will have to make the best score in math on the state test so he can earn a scholarship to the middle school. An education could make all the difference in the world to Akash and to his entire family. But can they afford to get Akash a tutor?
The family has a large debt to the man who owns the land they farm. Each month the debt grows larger and larger and they need everyone, including Akash, to help work to keep ahead of the landlord. Should Akash have such a dream? Can the family afford to allow him to risk school over the tasks at the farm? The traditions and beliefs of the Indian family hold them in bondage. What will Akash be willing to do to earn enough money?
Monika Scroeder is the librarian at the American School in New Delhi. She watched the children on the street corners and wondered about their world. This book was born from her questions and concerns for those children. How lucky our children are to have the right to an education that can offer them a better future and a chance to fulfill their own dreams.
978-0374364113 Ages 9-12
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
If you liked this book you might also enjoy: Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan; The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani; The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman