by Kashmira Sheth
Publishing Information: Hyperion Books for Children: New York, 2007
ISBN: 9780786838592 / 9780786838608 (PB)
Pages: 288 p.
Ages: 12 & Up
When Leela is unexpectedly widowed at age twelve, her carefree life ends. But India is changing; can Leela learn what she needs to change her circumstances, too?
Pretty, spoiled twelve-year-old Leela has always lived a priveleged and sheltered life. But when her fiancé dies, her childhood ends. Forced to live as a widow, her head is shaved and she is forced to give up all of her pretty clothes and jewelry. She also has to live indoors for a year to mourn the boy who was to be her husband, and she will never be permitted to remarry.
When her teacher hears of what has happened, she comes to Leela's home to tutor her privately. While trapped indoors, Leela learns to observe and to understand her changing world through her own senses, and through reading books and newspapers. She learns that India is a changing country; perhaps her fate can be changed, too.
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Awards & Reviews:
Amelia Bloomer Lists (Middle Grade Fiction), 2009
Booklist Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth, 2008
CCBC Choice, 2008
Friends of American Writers Award, 2008
International Reading Association Notable Books for A Global Society, 2008
Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 2008
Parent’s Choice Award Gold Winner, 2007
Maine Student Book Award Nominee, 2009
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers, 2009
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Selection, 2009
Booklist, October 15 2007, p.46 (Starred Review)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, February 2008, p. 262
Kirkus Reviews, October 2007 (Starred Review)
Multicultural Review, Winter 2007, p.91
Publishers Weekly, November 5, 2007, p.65 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, December 1, 2007, p.144 (Starred Review)
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, February 2009, p.493 (Starred Review)
Discussion Questions and Ideas:
- The book takes place nearly 100 years ago, and in another country. In what ways is Leela's life like yours? How is it different?
- Leela learned about the changes taking place in India by reading the newspaper every day. What important things are happening in the news right now in the United States?
- When Leela became a widow, she was forced to have her head shaved, give up her jewelry, and wear dark, rough clothes. When people lose a loved one here, what things do they do to show people that they're grieving? Why?
- Because of the traditions of her culture, Leela was engaged at 2 and married at 9. In India today, the legal age of marriage is 18. At what age do you think people are ready to marry? Why?
- Gandhi or "Gandhiji" was a single poor man. Why do you think he was so influential? Can you think of anyone else like him?
- When Leela's year of keeping corner is over, she's too nervous to venture outside at first. In her position, would you be? If you had been kept indoors for an entire year, what is the first thing you would do when you were free again?
- Although she was about Leela's age, Shani had never been taught to read. How might her newfound literacy be useful to her?
- What do you think of Gandhi's belief in the power of nonviolent protest? Have you tried anything like it in a conflict in your own life? How did it work?
- Leela was told that "A widow must learn to live like a widow." What does this mean to you? Do you think that Leela learned to live like a widow?
- Leela was told that a year indoors protects the widows from others. Do you think this is true? Did Leela's year of keeping corner hurt her or help her?
See also the publisher's discussion guide at
Author’s website - http://kashmirasheth.typepad.com/
Ancient India: History for Kids - http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/india/
Girls, Inc.: Inspiring All Girls to be Strong, Smart, and Bold - http://www.girlsinc.org/girls-inc.html
Time for Kids: India - http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/specials/goplaces/0,12405,214513,00.html
Website for the Gandhi Book Center ("One Spot Complete Information Website") - http://www.mkgandhi.org/
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Other Books by the Author:
Blue Jasmine, 2004
Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, 2006
My Dadima Wears a Sari, 2007
Monsoon Afternoon, 2008
About the Author:
Kashmira Sheth came from India when she was seventeen years old to study microbiology at Iowa State University. Her experiences as a teenager moving from India to the United States inspired her to write her first book for teens, Blue Jasmine. Kashmira lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her family.