Saraswati’s Way

Saraswati’s Way

Monika Schroder, Author

Frances Foster Books, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for:  Ages 10 -14 years

Themes:  Indian boy wants to study math, Poverty, Child labor, Hindu culture

Award:  2011 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year

Schroder has written a powerful, compelling and inspirational novel about twelve-year-old boy from India, who has a gift with numbers.  Akash sees numbers as patterns in his head.  He desperately wants to learn more from the village teacher, but he knows more than his teacher.  Akash shares his dreams of applying for a scholarship to go to a city school with his Bapu (father).  He is told that if the gods want him to have an education, he will.  He prays to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom, to grant his wish and to help him.

But, life deals Akash a blow when Bapu develops a fever and dies.  His Dadima (grandmother) sends him to work in the landlord’s rock quarry to pay off the family debt.  When Akash mathematically figures out that the landlord is charging interest on the loans, he realizes he will never pay off the family debt.   Late one night he hops a train headed to New Delhi to pursue his dreams.  He is now a street child rummaging for food and stealing to survive.  He wonders if Saraswati has abandoned him.  The streets of New Delhi hold unimaginable dangers, and temptations.  Akash must find a way to make money to pay for a math tutor.  His dreams of attending school present him with some difficult choices.   He can follow a street-smart boy, Rohit, and earn a lot of money dishonestly.  Or he can work with Ramesh,  a kind elderly newspaper vendor, who sees something very special in Akash.   He remembers his last conversation with Bapu before he dies.  “What you desire is on its way.” 

Monika Schroder, an elementary school teacher in New Delhi for seven years, really captures the essence of India — its color, heat, smells, beauty, poverty and child labor practices — through the eyes of a very determined orphaned boy.   In an “Author’s Note” at the end of the book she estimates there are between 100,000 to 500,000 street children.  Schroder also says about 80 percent of the people in India practice Hinduism.  There also is a glossary of Hindu words.   “A boy like Akash has a slim chance of fulfilling his dream in contemporary India,”  said Schroder.  “Yet I wanted to write a hopeful book about a child who, with determination, courage, and some luck achieves his goal against all odds.”

  

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

29 thoughts on “Saraswati’s Way

    • Niamh, I particularly enjoyed the book and video, because I adopted a son from India in 1985 — he was an older boy. I could see his face in so many of the kids in the video. His life would have been hard. But, today he is a truck driver traveling North America and having a ball. So this was a special read.

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  1. This sounds like a great book, Pat. It brings to mind a little that movie about the young man from India who won Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – I can’t think of the title, but it was a very powerful movie.

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    • Susanna, it was a very compelling book. Since I have a son from India, it held a lot of meaning for me. He’s made two trips back to his home town. He was one of the lucky ones. People just don’t realize how bad it is in India — extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

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  2. It does sounds a little like Slumdog Millionaire, Susanna, you are right!

    I think I would very much enjoy reading this, Pat, as it sounds like the author has managed a really authentic portrayal of Indian life.

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    • Joanna, there are some similarities with Slumdog Millionaire. But, it is a very interesting story about a math genius who learned Vedic math (I took that out of my review) and ancient form of teaching math that is outstanding! And, because of my son, this book touched my heart as things may have been different from him!

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  3. This book seems like an important story to tell us about poverty and in some countries and/or places some people can’t get out of poverty. It sounds like an interesting story that I’d like to read.

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    • Diane, you would like this story. I loved the trailer, because I could see my son in the street kids. He’s one of the lucky ones. The author did a very good job of protraying India, it’s culture and its slums. Read it in one reading.

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  4. Another great find! Our friends at Free the Children (www.freethechildren.com) have been doing great work in places like India to help children break free of the type of slavery described here and go to school. That organization was started by a 12 year old who had gone to East Asia after reading about a carpet boy’s assassination (he’d escaped slavery and helped others escape). Now there are a million children volunteers working to help other children around the world. Books like Saraswati’s Way can inspire amazing things. Who knows what will happen when someone reads it!

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    • Craig, I’m glad you liked this choice. Will have to look at the website. It’s fascinating that the child you mentioned has done so much. Such a great story. This book was important to me because we adopted a young boy from India in 1985, before the doors closed to adoptions. I shudder to think what his life would have been like. Thought the author did a very realistic portrayal of India, yet gave hope. Because hope is possible as you have seen.

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  5. So many people live in India, yet the West knows hardly anything about them. This is a great introduction to embolden others to research and learn about the most populous place on earth.

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    • Michael, thanks for your comments. It was a very realistic portrayal of India. I saw a special on Oprah during her visit to India the other night showing the extreme poverty and extreme wealth! She showed both sides too. This book meant a lot, because we adopted an older boy from India.

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    • Beth, it was a very inspiring book. Unfortunately, most kids don’t have a chance with the extreme poverty and wealth. But, I liked seeing a kid succeed. And there are hundreds of kids that were adopted from India for about 15 years, before India closed its doors to foreign adoptions. But, there are a group of children who got that chance, like my son. They are all grown now and living in America and France. India wanted to encourage adoptions locally — so they say. We were one of the lucky families that were able to adopt. I could see my son’s face in the pictres of the kids in the video. I have a few snapshots of him in India.

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  6. Sounds like a truly inspiring story, Patricia. Kind of reminded me as well of Slumdog Millionaire. I visited Mumbai for only five days, and have not had a chance to really go around and see much of the sights (we were pretty much cooped up in the university during the conference). I have a feeling that this would be a great book to know more about the richness of the culture.

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    • Myra, I’m glad you enjoyed this book. It does remind one of Slumdog Millionaire. The kids were in the limelight for a short time, only to return to lives of poverty. But, it gave them hope that maybe they can do something with their lives. That’s what I like about Akash’s story — it’s about a very determined boy who will not give up.

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  7. Pingback: Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder | Children's Books Heal

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