Find out our Chapter Book picks for 2020!
In May, when we introduced the Chapter Book pick for every month of the year, we were dazzled by some incredible books! We discovered new South Asian authors from different publishers. We explored chapter books on a variety of topics, both fiction and non-fiction! Some of the themes and ideas covered in this list are:
Wildlife, travel, and animals!
South Asian historical fiction
Mehendi, art, and tech!
Birds and conservation
South Asian identity
Food and fun
Stars, adventures through constellations, and magic
A round-up of the Monthly Chapter Book Recommendation for children ‑ from the several books we run through each year!
As kids transition from picture books to chapter books, it is important for us as parents to recognize that the transition may not be as easy for all kids!
To make this easy for both parents and kids we at Tokabox classify chapter books further as:
Toka Early Readers for 6‑8 yr olds
Toka Middle Readers for 9‑12 yr olds!
Toka Teens for teenagers & YA!
Kashmira Sheth's ‘Nina Soni, Sister Fixer!’ is the second title in the humorous Nina Soni series featuring a charming, distractible Indian-American girl and her family and friends.
“A long rainy stretch during spring break has Nina restless and hungry for a new project and aggravated with little sister Kavita’s embarrassing behavior. A fresh pile of dirt just delivered to the neighbor’s house for a landscaping project ends up being too tempting to resist. Can Nina fix Kavita and create something amazing at the same time?”
Here’s what my 8-year-old thought of the book: “Nina Soni is fun and teaches you that you cannot change the way a person is. She wants to fix her sister and in the end she finds out that nobody can change how a person is. I also liked that Nina is the same age as me and Indian American like me."
The market is filled with books about children and their role in saving the environment but Ranjit Lal's Budgie, Bridge and Big Djinn is pretty special. It simply doesn't cram those facts in there but offers an interesting and immersive experience. The book is about Brijesh, Shoma and Shoma's Tibetan Mastiff-German Shepherd Big Djinn, as they embark on a dangerous expedition to save their home near Nainital from the clutches of a rich, greedy and corrupt man who wants to replace their ancestral home with a huge profit-making sporting arena.
In the book, the author's love for natural history, wildlife, birds, and animals really shines through. He was awarded the Zeiss Wildlife Lifetime Conservation Award in 2019. We love how both Brijesh and Shoma are outspoken, independent thinkers and it is great to see them both move beyond their past difficulties. Shoma's parents are divorced. Brijesh lost his mother to cancer and his father is an abusive alcoholic but with the help of Shoma's naani, Brijesh is set for a better future. The book is cheerful, breezy and packed with lovely information and descriptions of wildlife and sceneries. Go for it!
Set in 1942 in the fictitious town of Navrangpur, Ahimsa is a brilliant novel that tells the story of a 10-year-old girl and her role in the Indian Independence movement.
The last few years have seen many interesting children's books about India and its past but Ahimsa is the most riveting, powerful book we have ever read. It works beautifully both as a young adult novel and a historical novel. It gives us such a wonderful peek into the lives and personal conflicts of people who lived during 1942 in India and who were part of India's historic freedom movement.
Set in 1942, Ahimsa is about Anjali, a ten-year-old girl whose mother works for a British officer. Anjali's mother quits her job and joins the freedom movement. Anjali is nonplussed by her mother's choice and she cannot understand why they would have to give up their beautiful clothes and only wear khadi. Anjali and her family are brahmins and hence on top of the caste system. Anjali's parents decide that everyone should be equal and they start challenging the status quo -- they empty the waste from their own toilets, work with the Dalits in their neighborhood how to read and write, and are constantly assessing their beliefs and strategies when it comes to their role in the freedom movement.
The author's background as a screenwriter really contributes to the pace and structure of this novel, which powers its way through many events, incidents and conflicts. It is hard to put the book down when one exciting event follows another. The author visualizes scenes so beautifully and we can actually see them in our mind's eye.
What I love about the book is that it is unflinchingly honest and is not precious about the Independence movement but courageously confronts a clash of ideals in the minds of its characters. For example, Gandhi burned foreign-spun clothes but he deeply regretted it later, and so do some of the novel's characters. Every page is a delight and a wonder to read. Every emotion is genuine. There is not a single false note in the book. A new identity and a new India is being forged, and in the background, religious and caste battles are being fought.
My daughter and I love history, which is why we lapped up all the historical references and descriptions in the book, especially the Spinning Wheel and its symbolism of passive resistance and self-sufficiency. We understood the complexity of the caste system in India and Dr. Ambedkar's work.
Interestingly, Shailaja is based on the author's great grandmother, freedom fighter Anasuyabai Kale, who worked with Gandhi and was imprisoned for civil disobedience.
We think your child will absolutely love Ahimsa! It is a delight to read, has fun, pace and humor, and leaves you emotionally and spiritually satisfied after you finish it!
Our pick for September is Nandini Bajpai's ‘s hottest new YA book on the block titled A Match Made in Mehendi. Fifteen-year-old Simi is from a family of Indian matchmakers, so does she have the gift too? Armed with her family's ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course! But what happens when she pairs a social wallflower with the star of the boys' soccer team? Fun, funny, vibrant, and hard to put down -- you simply cannot miss this one!
Shveta Thakrar's book, Star Daughter is a luminous, fast-paced YA book that is gorgeously written and perfectly imagined. Thakrar cites Neil Gaiman’s Stardust as an inspiration. She says that she wanted to read a similar magical fantasy story about an Indian girl, with love and intrigue thrown into the mix. Don’t we all wish that our most beloved heroes and heroines looked and felt like us? This inspired Tharkar to write Star Daughter.
Unlike Gaiman’s book, the central character in Star Daughter is a young girl named Sheetal Mistry, who lives in New Jersey with her father and has a secret. Her hair is starlight silver and the stars call out to her, urging her to sing their song. She is the daughter of a star named Charumati, who had to leave Sheetal’s human father to protect him.
No one except Sheetal’s father and her best friend Minal know about this secret, but slowly things began to happen – she discovers that her boyfriend Dev has a family history that is intertwined with hers. She then discovers that she has to save her father and to do this, she has to travel across the galaxy to visit her mother at the Starry Court. Sheetal finds herself embroiled in a competition in order to save her father’s life and to decide the next ruling house of the heavens.
This book has everything a young adult will look for in a book – adventure, magic, fantasy, love, courtly intrigue, matches blazed forth, lost and won among the stars and a plot that paces ahead unstoppably from start to finish. The author takes us through magical night markets, jars that contain portals to different worlds, and finally, the magic of star song and what it means to search for your identity.
A powerful and captivating novel, Supriya Kelkar's American as Paneer Pie is is about an Indian-American girl named Lekha who lives in Oakridge, Michigan.
A lover of Bollywood and Indian food, Lekha has been happy living in her own world and ignores jibes from other kids about her - who she is and where she comes from. Lekha has a brown birthmark shaped like a bindi on her forehead, prompting a boy in school named Liam to call her 'Dot.' From people not getting her name right, to making fun of the food she eats and how she dresses, Lekha tries to keep to herself. She makes it to the super-competitive swim team, much to Liam's chagrin, and his bullying increases. Lekha is okay with dealing with these jibes, until a girl named Avantika moves to town and challenges the status quo in a major way, standing up to bullies. Interestingly, the novel is set against the backdrop of a divisive statewide election and adds so much context to the story.
A book for the 8-12 age group, American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkaris a powerful, engrossing, and wonderful read. It is an important one and children will love reading it and seeing themselves in it. We were delighted to see that so many first-generation Indian Americans when reviewing or talking about the book, really related to the story. The book mirrors the experiences and journeys of so many children like Lekha and Avantika, who love and call this country their home.
We highly recommend this one and think it makes for the perfect chapter book-pick this month! Do check it out!
In The Grand Chapati Contest, the king of a faraway land is a benevolent and easygoing sort who loves his chapatis, prepared by the chief chapati cook. One day, the cook leaves to become a holy man, causing the king to become extremely unhappy. The palace tries to find a new cook but no one can live up to the Chief Chapati Cook or can make wonderful chapatis the way he did. The queen, who is too busy repairing clocks or designing fountains to cook, comes up with an idea - hold a contest!
The palace holds the Grand Chapati Contest, promising the winner a grand prize and a position as the Chief Chapati Cook. Many famous cooks come to participate in this contest. Who will win? You will be surprised!
We absolutely love this book and all its delightful elements. We love that the queen is a designer and a problem solver. We also love the different kinds of chapati makers, including the elephant! The illustrations by Chetan Sharma are delightful. Above all, my daughter totally got the importance given to soft, fluffy chappatis.
As parents, we want our children to embrace values through the stories they read but in subtle, meaningful ways. A fun and memorable story is a great way to do it! As a mum, I loved who won the chapati contest because of their talent, simplicity, and hard work.
This is a 'Hook Book' from Penguin India. It is designed as the perfect book to introduce a child to chapter books because it has illustrations and is longer than a picture book but it isn't a full-fledged chapter book.
Here's what Sayoni Basu, editor of Hook Books, says about these books:
"It is an accepted fact that every child reads at a different pace. Reading levels and grade targets and Lexile levels work up to a point, but children’s actual reading abilities vary widely within these levels and frequently fall outside them on either side. The challenge for authors and publishers is to therefore create books which can work for wide age groups. Books which are both simple and complex: with a vocabulary that works for kids of five and six, who are graduating from picture books to books with more words, yet with a story that would interest a reader who may be a lot older."
Buy this book now!