Saraswati’s Way, by Monika Schroeder (book review) – fleeing poverty, seeking wisdom

book cover of Saraswati's Way by Monika Schroeder published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young ReadersAs a school librarian living in India, Monika is writing from the heart. She’s seen too many children who must work instead of go to school, no matter how intelligent they are, because the debts of their family are so overwhelming. The orphans scavenging recyclables from the railway station trash are still there, despite the info-tech revolution sweeping their country.

The author’s book trailer gives us a glimpse of the grim reality and many obstacles that Akash faces as he struggles to get schooling in this luminous story leavened with hope.

Book info: Saraswati’s Way / by Monika Schroeder. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Book Talk: 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. (one of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

One thought on “Saraswati’s Way, by Monika Schroeder (book review) – fleeing poverty, seeking wisdom

  1. This story sounds magnificent. What a great blog topic. I’m thinking of transitioning into teaching elementary school and might be plugging into what’s new and good in YA publishing.

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