cover image Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood

Varsha Bajaj. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8075-6363-2

Abby Spencer, 13, is thrown for a loop when she learns that her estranged father is actually a Bollywood heartthrob, Naveen Kumar. Naveen is equally shocked to hear that he has a daughter (he never saw a letter Abby’s mother sent when she was pregnant), and he invites Abby to visit him in Mumbai. Picture book author Bajaj’s (T Is for Taj Mahal) first middle-grade novel conveys Abby’s mixed emotions about meeting her father, getting her first taste of celebrity, and visiting India, though not always believably (“The muddy color of poverty was interspersed by the bright blue color of tarpaulin people used to keep the rain out,” reflects Abby about Mumbai’s slums). Information about India is laced throughout the story, and although the father/daughter reunion is slightly canned and the dialogue sometimes difficult to swallow (“At first, the hurt and the feeling of rejection felt like shackles that I could never break free,” Abby’s mother says of her failed romance with Naveen), Abby’s extravagant travels and first romance are enough to satisfy and amuse. Ages 9–13. Agent: Jill Corcoran, Jill Corcoran Literary Agency. (Mar.)