Title: Saraswati's Way
Author: Monika Schroder
Publisher: Frances Foster Books
Concepts: child schooling and work, poverty, scarcity
Review: With his extraordinary mathematical abilities, twelve-year old Akash had already surpassed what his village math teacher could teach him. Akash dreamed of earning a scholarship so that he could attend a better school in the city, but his father's untimely death forced him to go down an entirely different path: his grandmother sent him off to work in their landlord's quarry in order to pay off the family debt.
Only a few days of this backbreaking physical labor and some quick calculations led Akash to conclude that the debt would continue to grow no matter how hard he worked. He managed to sneak onto a passenger train for New Delhi and join up with a group of boys at the train station who supported themselves by going through the trash and selling plastic bottles. However, as Akash became more exposed to the darker side of street life, including petty crime, gambling, and drugs, he would need the guidance of Saraswati the goddess of knowledge as well as his own keen intuition to steer him toward the right path.
Set in a rural Indian village as well as the bustling train station and streets of New Delhi, this novel provides young learners with a glimpse of what it could take for an orphaned and unwanted child to survive in the most challenging of circumstances. A relatively gentle tone helps to introduce middle grade readers to issues associated with child poverty and child labor that they may otherwise not read much about.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children