Monday, June 25, 2007

Rickshaw Girl, by Mitali Perkins

Naima lives in a rural village in the country of Bangladesh. She is a talented artist who has been awarded prizes for the alpana designs she paints on the walls of her home. As she grows older, Naima begins to feel how unfair many things are for girls in her country. She has to drop out of school, for example, and there are many types of work she isn't allowed to do. Naima's father drives a rickshaw for his livelihood. (picture on page 16). And Naima's friend, who is a boy her age named Saleem, has started driving his father's rickshaw to help his family earn money. Naima's father is constantly exhausted from working too much, and so Naima decides to help her whole family by learning to drive a rickshaw, too. The first time she gets on her father's bike, though, she crashes and creates even more problems for her father and her family. But Naima doesn't lose heart---she continues to search for ways to help her family and she finds a surprising new way to earn money.

Why I liked this book: I was reminded of rural villages in the Philippines and the tricicads and tricicad drivers. Naima was a character I really loved and the whole time I was reading I felt like I wanted to put my arm around her, give her a little hug, and tell her how wonderful she is and how much courage she has and to keep it up. I also liked learning about Naima's culture, and about the ways some of the gender traditions are changing.

Why I think you'll like this book: Even though it takes place in a country that is quite different from the U.S., I think you'll relate to Naima. She loves her family and wants to help them, but also wants to be her own person. Sometimes she's excited to be growing older, but sometimes she wishes she didn't have the additional responsibilities and expectations. I think you'll feel strongly that there are some things in Niama's country that are unfair for girls and women and you'll want to know more about the injustices and ways they are being overcome.

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