The Children’s Book Review | February 22, 2019
Padma Venkatraman’s Selfie with The Bridge Home
I was born in India, at a time when you had to stand really still when a photograph was taken – and most photographs were black and white! So selfies are tough for me to take – and this isn’t strictly a selfie – my daughter took it. THE BRIDGE HOME was tough to write, too – although, unlike with the selfie, I didn’t give up trying! Writing it took me back to my childhood, which wasn’t easy (although I didn’t have to struggle nearly as much as the four children in the novel or face hunger, as one of my grandfathers did as a child). I was born into a very wealthy and privileged family, but my parents separated when I was about eight, and after that, my mother, with whom I lived, had to begin all over again, from scratch. Once, I remember my mouth watering when I saw a jar of cookies in a roadside bakery, and my mother saying she couldn’t afford to get me one, as we were on a tight budget. But I didn’t waste time feeling sorry for myself because I got to know children who’d faced so much worse (at schools where my mother helped out). Some of those children had to overcome terrible poverty and I their courage and stories and sense of humor found their way into THE BRIDGE HOME. Someone called the book “Oliver Twist meets Slum Dog Millionaire” and I love that way of summing it up, because it’s about four children who manage to find ways to laugh even though they face hunger and homelessness – horrific problems that have unfortunately been around for centuries, all over the world.
Padma Venkatraman’s Shelfie
I’m serving as a writer-not-quite-in-residence at the Hansewissenschafts Kolleg in Delmenhorst, Germany, right now – so this is my bookshelf at the institute, where I’ll be staying until the end of the month – before I return to RI to celebrate the release of THE BRIDGE HOME in February! At the moment, I’m reading a lot of adult science novels, because I love science and mathematics just as much as I love writing and literature! For a while I served as the chief scientist on a research vessel and worked in a laboratory on the shores of the Baltic Sea, and I did some exciting things like scuba diving on coral reefs and exploring rainforests before I became an American and a writer. My bookshelves at home are probably among the bravest, strongest bookshelves in the world. They’re stacked with layers of books for all ages and on all subjects, and there are always higgledy-piggledy piles of books on the floor in my office, too! If you’ve read THE LIBRARY by Sarah Stewart (illustrated by David Small), that’s sort of what my workspace is like!
Written by Padma Venkatraman
Publisher’s Synopsis: Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.
Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter–and friendship–on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books | February 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1524738112
About the Author
Padma Venkatraman was born in Chennai, India, and became an American citizen after attaining a Ph.D. in oceanography from The College of William and Mary. She is also the author of A Time to Dance (IBBY selection, ALA Notable, CCBC Choice, Notable Books for a Global Society winner, and South Asia Book Award Honor Book), Island’s End (ALA Best Book of the Year, ALA/Amelia Bloomer List selection, and CCBC Best Book), and Climbing the Stairs (Julia Ward Howe Award, Bank Street Best Book, YALSA BBYA selection, Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and CCBC Choice).
Visit Providence Journal to read Inside Story: Gaining perspective, empathy with author and oceanographer Padma Venkatraman
Discover more books like ‘The Bridge Home,’ written by Padma Venkatraman, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with Friendship, Homelessness, Middle Grade Books, and Sisters. Be sure to follow along with our Selfie and a Shelfie series.