House, Silas. Same Sun Here. Fic. Candlewick, 2011. 298p. $15.99. 978-0-7636-5684-3. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 5-8.
Authors Silas House and Neela Vaswani create a novel of letters written in the personas of a girl, Meena, living in New York’s Chinatown and a boy, River, from a coal mining area of Kentucky, who have been matched in a school pen-pal program. Adding to the urban/rural culture difference is Meena’s family background: Her family are East Indian immigrants dealing with H-4 visas, I-551 alien registration cards, and studying assiduously for their citizenship tests. There is a certain contrivance to the set-up, which shows the children bonding over their closeness with a beloved grandmother and having to cope with both fathers working far from home. But the voices of the two protagonists (House writes as River and Vaswani as Meena) are individual and evocative; spats over their differences are sometimes comic and always credible. The tone of the book is warm and gentle, with a few dramatic spikes as River becomes involved in his community’s stand against the environmental damage caused by aggressive tree-felling. Teachers looking for a class read-aloud or joint reading project will be drawn to this and the kids in their classes won’t be let down.
Elizabeth Overmyer, Independent