From the book jacket: In a dingy shack in the less than desirable neighborhood that he calls home
12-year-old Anand is entrusted with a conch shell that possesses mystical
powers. His task is to return the shell to its rightful home many hundreds of
miles away. Accompanying him are Nisha, a headstrong but resourceful child of
the streets, and a mysterious man of indeterminate age and surprising resources
Their journey will take them from the teeming streets of Kolkata, India, across the arid plains and turbulent rivers to a secret valley high in the Himalayas. Along the way they encounter powerful spirits, both good and unspeakably evil; fantastical creatures; and a trio of intrepid travelers who will linger in your memory long after the last page of this book is turned.
Comment: I read The Conch Bearer to our two children last year (then aged 8 and 10). We all enjoyed it and they always wanted to squeeze in a couple more pages when it was time to stop. One reviewer suggests that The Conch Bearer is merely a rehashing of Kipling - presumably comparing it to Kim. All I can say to that is I suggest the reviewer try reading Kim to a few elementary school age children and see how she does! We've read a fair amount of Kipling with the children (The Just So Stories, Riki Tiki Tavi and many of the Jungle Books stories, but gave up on Kim entirely after about 30 pages - it seemed to be weighted down with a level of detail and, dare I say it, British jingoism, that just did not sit well with such a young audience.
However, I digress (yet again); back to The Conch Bearer - we found it to be an enchanting tale which lifted us all out of our suburban reality into the back streets of Calcutta, and into a classic adventure of good versus evil, brimming with the sights and smells of Divakaruni's country of birth. I am happy to recommend it as a book to read aloud for children aged 8 and up, and to read for themselves probably 10 years and above.
This review is from the March 2, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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