cover image CHACHAJI'S CUP


Uma Krishnaswami, , illus. by Soumya Sitaraman. . Children's Book Press, $16.95 (31pp) ISBN 978-0-89239-178-3

Intimate scenes of a family of Indian immigrants earn Krishnaswami's (Shower of Gold: Girls and Women in the Stories of India) a place on the multicultural bookshelf. Asking about the rose-covered teacup his grandfather Chachaji prefers to all others, Neel learns that it is the only object Chachaji's own mother brought with her when India was partitioned in 1947, and she and Chachaji had to walk miles to reach safety across the new border. "Everyone laughed at her for taking a breakable thing like a teacup, instead of something useful," says Chachaji. "She knew—if this teacup got to India without breaking, she would get to India without breaking." Although she doesn't endow Neel with much dimension, the author smoothly handles the issues of loss, alienation and assimilation. "How would twenty [miles] feel, or a hundred, every step weighed down with sadness?" Neel asks himself. When he breaks the cup, figuring out how to make the loss right repairs his relationship with Chachaji, too. First-timer Sitaraman has trouble portraying the characters in the story. Only the face of Chachaji seems really distinctive—perhaps a symptom of the sense that the story is less Neel's than Chachaji's. Potentially impressive scenes in which Chachaji recalls scenes from his life in India show indistinct figures and little detail beyond that specified by the text. While the book may be a good touchstone for adults seeking openings for discussions about India, it's less likely to appeal to children who happen upon it on their own. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)