cover image Outside In

Outside In

Jennifer Bradbury. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4424-6827-6

In an inspiring and multilayered story partly based on the life of Nek Chand, a self-taught Indian artist, a homeless teenage orphan scrapes by with his wits on the streets of Chandigarh, a “young” city “built as a symbol of hope and new beginnings.” Running away from a gang of rich boys from whom he won money playing a game called gilli, Ram accidentally drops his winnings and watches Nek, a factory worker, discover the windfall. Intending to steal the money back, Ram follows Nek to a hideout in the woods, where he sees the man using found materials to create a small city with houses, gardens, and an army of laughing statues on property that doesn’t belong to him. From Nek and other friends, Ram learns the story of Rama, which Nek describes as “the story of all of India.... It is every story ever told wrapped into one.” In Ram, Bradbury (River Runs Deep) creates a gutsy, compassionate protagonist who longs to be “more than just a kid who has been left behind.” Ages 8–12. (June)