Darnton, Kate. Chloe in India. Delacorte Press, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-553-53504-4. 217 pages. Ages 12-16. P8 Q9
Through the riveting account of one teen girl’s year spent abroad, readers gain a nuanced view of the culture of New Delhi, India. In this fascinating chapter book for middle schoolers, a girl moves with her family to an urban section of modern India. Chloe’s observations of the culture’s beauty and economic disparity are poignantly descriptive and useful in teaching about current events in India today. There are particular insights into the culture that most Americans would find confusing, and that only an extended visitor to this country could communicate. The author does this in a way that many middle-schoolers will relate to and understand. Chloe goes to a New Delhi private school where only a few of the gifted lower class natives are able to attend at no cost. These appallingly impoverished children are referred to as natives of the “weaker” economic section in the story. Consequentially, readers learn about India’s Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act put in place in 2009. This legislation requires that each school -including private ones- admit twenty-five percent of their enrollment from the disadvantaged members of each neighborhood. The narrator befriends one of these “weaker” natives, and complications -some expected and some not- make for a suspenseful read. Other issues, such as the increasingly conspicuous consumption of outrageously wealthy real estate investors (some of whom have children enrolled at Chloe’s school), the slums, and the extreme separation of classes are addressed compellingly without being didactic. I recommend this book highly for middle school students and for social studies teachers of this age group. It’s a gift of a book to our culture for further multi-cultural learning. The ending does become a bit overly simplistic, and “Hollywood-ish,” (so much so that I’m quite certain that political experts on this region would roll their eyes over the conclusion which predictably makes the white, main character a hero). Overall, and all of this considered, I loved this book. Includes footnotes on India’s Rights to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 and a glossary of Indian terms.
March 2016 review by Devonee Trivett.