Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.
Padma Venkatraman’s middle-grade debut takes us to the streets of Chennai, India, where two sisters try to find their own way after escaping from their abusive home. Reviewers Jean and Katya trudge along with the sisters on this poignant yet hopeful journey. Read their thoughts below.
Jean says: [Viji and Rukku] eventually find shelter in an abandoned bridge, with their dog, Kutti, and two other homeless boys, Muthi and Arul. It’s a tough life, but they are free, with friends that have become like family. Muthi and Arul have been on their own for a while, and they show the girls how to be independent.
Katya says: But most of these moments come from the family they create with the boys. Muthu and Arul are vivid and real, from the way they speak all the way down to their hair—mischievous Muthu alternately arguing with and standing up for the girls, and Arul taking on the role of a wise older brother. Every dynamic is a breath of fresh air, and I loved all of it.
Grounded in Reality
Jean says: The Bridge Home was drawn from first-hand accounts of underprivileged children that Venkatraman had worked with. It’s a cause that is close to the author’s heart, and it shines through this poignant, thoughtful narrative. The novel is frank about the everyday dangers that homeless children face, but it also shows their courage, resilience, and strength in the face of suffering.
Katya says: What makes the novel most impactful is what it draws from reality. Some descriptions, dialogue, and details will be familiar to a Filipino audience—from the honorifics to the vast divide between the rich and poor—while others are distinctly Indian. But universal elements such as poverty, hunger, abuse, and child exploitation inform and color the story without weighing it down.
Jean says: The best children’s books are the ones that are not shy to tackle “mature” or sensitive topics while talking to a young audience. […] Heartwarming and hopeful, The Bridge Home would be a wonderful addition to any elementary kid’s library.
Katya says: Sweet, humorous, and poignant all at once, The Bridge Home is a moving story about the families you choose and the sacrifices you make for them. I wholeheartedly recommend reading it; it won’t take too long. And once you’re done, call up a friend and tell them you love them. Trust me. It’s worth it.
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman is available at Fully Booked branches and Fully Booked Online.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]