Monday, April 13, 2015

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD by Varsha Bajaj

ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD by Varsha Bajaj (Albert Whitman and Company, March 2014)

What It's About (from Goodreads): What thirteen-year-old Abby wants most is to meet her father. She just never imagined he would be a huge film star--in Bollywood! Now she's traveling to Mumbai to get to know her famous father. Abby is overwhelmed by the culture clash, the pressures of being the daughter of India's most famous celebrity, and the burden of keeping her identity a secret. But as she learns to navigate her new surroundings, she just might discover where she really belongs.

Opening Lines: "The one thing I want in my life...? Hmm.
Miss Cooper needs to know that? Really?
My eyes dart from Zoey on my right to Priya diagonally across from me to the clock directly above Miss Cooper's head. Three minutes to the bell. Unlike me, my friends are scribbling furiously."

What I Loved About It:

Varsha Bajaj got the MG voice just right. Abby is a likable character, with friends. The novel moves swiftly (Abby has an allergic reaction in the first chapter, which rapidly raises questions about whether her father--whom she's never met--might also have a similar allergy) and soon Abby is on her way to India, where her father is a huge Bollywood star. There, culture shock awaits as she experiences Mumbai as "both a city of dreams and of extreme poverty."

Quite unusually for middle grade, there really aren't any antagonistic adults either. Abby is greeted and welcomed in India by her grandmother, her father, and the servants of the house. Her father's girlfriend, a famous actress, is also kind to her. Essentially, Abby's only enemy is herself, as she goes through very relatable emotions about her relationship with her dad and whether he wants to accept her publicly or not.

There is also a very sweet (and completely MG!) romance between Abby and Shaan--an Indian-American boy who is also visiting family in India.

I also think the cover is delightful!

N.B. ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD was a middle grade finalist for the 2014 Cybils award.

I contacted Varsha Bajaj, and am thrilled that she graciously agreed to answer the Mafioso questions. Here goes:

1) Who are your favorite (middle grade) authors): Kate D’Camillo, Gary Schmidt, and Lynda Mullaly Hunt are some of my favorites.

2) What's on your nightstand now?
Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, Stitching Snow by RC Lewis, The Truth about Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh, and All Four Stars by Tara Daiman.

3) Pick a favorite scene from your novel, and say why you like it.
I loved writing the scene where Abby and Shaan go for a ride in the rickshaw. I love rickshaw rides myself. They are bumpy and I love the way rickshaws are decorated. Each one has an over the top unique style. Rickshaws have a roof but no doors and that to me is a bit crazy.

4) Fill in the blank: I'm really awesome at....
Putting my feet up and reading a book all afternoon. I have a hot cup of chai and possibly chips to munch on while I read. (MGM: I agree--that sounds delightful!)

5) My favorite breakfast is...
Toasted bagel with butter, or scrambled eggs on an English muffin and if I am splurging and it is available a dosa.

6) If you could visit any place, where would it be?
I have to choose one? I want to see the world but I would especially love to visit Italy. (MGM: The Don gives you his seal of approval, Varsha!)

About the Author: 
Originally from Mumbai, India, Varsha Bajaj came to the United States in 1986 as a graduate student. As she says in her website bio: "After a dozen intermediate years in which I got a Masters degree, worked as a Counselor, got married, had two children and became a citizen, I started writing. It was 1999, two years after my daughter was born; my son was five and I had fallen in love with the picture book." Prior to Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood, Varsha published two picture books: How Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight? (2004) and T is For Taj Mahal: An India Alphabet (2011). She is represented by Jill Corcoran at the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.

Varsha Bajaj's website  Twitter

Thanks for stopping by today! Ciao!